On August 7, Hennepin County celebrated the grand opening of its third regional human service center, this one in North Minneapolis. Officials representing the County, the City, the region and the State gathered at the North Minneapolis facility, at Plymouth and Emerson Avenues North, for a celebration and ribbon cutting.
Among the dignitaries was U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who represents the North Side in Congress. “Government, at the end of the day, is how we organize ourselves to live together,” he said. The new facility, more accessible to people who need it, “is evidence and proof that we are a loving community that cares for one another.”
Hennepin County human services staff members have been working at the site since late June, acclimating to a new address and a new way of business that allows clients to complete a broader needs assessment, apply for assistance and get referrals to other services, including those of local community agencies and faith groups.
Part of regionalization plan
The new, transit-friendly site is only one part of a larger plan to expand human services access from a concentration of offices in downtown Minneapolis to six sites spread across the county and closer to where residents live, work and
attend school. Rather than taking time from work and school to make the trip downtown, Hennepin County clients can integrate needed visits with their financial workers and other County staff into their everyday routines.
Two other human services offices already are in operation in Brooklyn Center and Bloomington. A west suburban office in Hopkins will open in the fall. Two more locations, serving central and northeast Minneapolis and south Minneapolis, are planned for 2015 and 2016.
“It’s all about making our services accessible to people in their community,” said Rex Holzemer, assistant county administrator for human services. “It’s about intervening earlier to get people back to self-sufficiency and working closely with community partners to provide a full range of services people can benefit from.”
Hennepin County will continue to partner with established North Minneapolis nonprofits and community resources; staff members will collaborate with community agencies to offer residents a full spectrum of services.
As part of the planning process for the human services offices last year, the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC) and Hennepin County invited residents to weigh in on their wishes for the selected site through a series of engagement meetings. A community benefits agreement between the council, the County, and the building’s owner, Minneapolis-based Ackerberg Group, was developed during this time also.
One of the results of the community engagement process was the addition of weekly Hennepin County service center hours, when residents can apply for a variety of licenses and permits, on the North Hub site.
“We heard from residents that they would like more services to be offered at the office,” said County Commissioner Linda Higgins, who represents the 2nd District, where the facility is located. “Each Wednesday, residents can apply to renew a driver’s license or get a fishing license, apply for birth and death records, or enact some other transaction that otherwise would have required a trip downtown or to one of the suburban service centers.”
Hennepin County has entered into a long-term lease on the newly refurbished building. The reuse project transformed a former printing plant into a bright, attractive space for Hennepin County workers and clients. The project also met hiring goals for women and minorities, another important piece of the community benefits agreement.
— Information provided by Hennepin County