News Analysis—By Dwight Hobbes, Contributing Writer

Steve Cramer -Photo by Dwight Hobbes

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that no victims of May’s tornado that tore through North Minneapolis are beefing about the response by Project for Pride in Living (PPL). The organization has a documented track record of intervening to empower citizens be it in the face of such a catastrophe or while contending with hard times and situations in general.

PPL Executive Director Steve Cramer, sitting in his office at 1035 Franklin Ave., recounted how swiftly and responsibly the needs of storm victims living in PPL-owned apartments were met. The Sunday afternoon it hit six of their buildings, maintenance teams were on site to begin repairs.

Work crews arrived before police began cordoning off the area. “We tried to get out there as quickly as [possible]. For damaged roofs, tarping them off so there wouldn’t be any more water seepage if there was additional rain. Shoring up windows that were blown out.”

Cramer, in hands-on supervision, didn’t sit home and check reports from the field. “I was able to talk to a number of the [19] families who were affected and got a sense of what their needs were.” Monday morning, PPL human services staffers began getting in touch with storm victims to help start putting their lives back together.

Paramount was, of course, where displaced tenants were now going to live. “We made some of our vacant units available. In the end, we were able to sign, I think, seven leases.” Between $5,000 given by the Minneapolis Foundation and its own Self-Sufficiency Program budget, PPL provided $15,000 in emergency assistance.

As well, Cramer notes, “Macy’s donated beds, because one problem these families had was that their bedding got soaked and where there was glass imbedded in the [mattresses].” With people losing cars and finding themselves without food and other necessities, among the aids PPL provided were bus cards and supermarket gift cards.

All with no red tape or runaround.

Project for Pride in Living has a history of proving its commitment to empowering communities. As described on their website, “Founded in 1972, [it] is a nonprofit agency working with lower-income individuals and families throughout the Twin Cities metro area to achieve greater self-sufficiency through housing, employment training, education, and support services.”

Included in the outreach are a host of workshops and programs that yield impressive results. For instance, Latrice Williams, who received a 2011 Achievement Award at PPL, thankfully states in its April-June “News, Views and Success Stories” newsletter, “When I came to PPL, I was lost…unsure who I was, how far I could go. I was on welfare and knew I needed a change in my life. I was homeless, had no GED, no job. Now, I have my home, GED and a career.”

A couple of the offerings are pre-school curriculum Early Wonders and alternative high school MERC, both godsends at a time when the state budget hawks are scapegoating funding for public education. MERC student Angel is quoted in the program’s brochure: “I like the small classes [that provide] more attention. I didn’t get that in the public high school I came from.”

Crucial in today’s economy is viable preparation to look for a job. Accordingly, Cramer says of courses at Train To Work, held at Emma B. Howe Learning Center in South Minneapolis, “We’re constantly refining and updating class [materials] based on feedback from potential employers as hiring needs change, so that what people learn [is] relevant to what they need to do on the job. We tend to [place personnel] with health care and banking — North Memorial, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo.”
With homelessness steadily worsening, Twin Cities shelters offer stop-gap measures that are temporary at best. PPL owns, operates and administers a lasting roof overhead. Collaborative Village provides long-range stability.
“Families who, for the last year, haven’t had a place to live, were in a shelter or a relative’s back room, they [now] have consistency.” For the first time in a long time. “It’s permanent housing. Once you’re there, you don’t have to leave.”
PPL also prints a small press magazine, “Family Roots,” with stories and essays penned by participants in the organization’s Community Writing Project (CWP). This offshoot gives voice to creative minds who would otherwise go overlooked.
An example, excerpted from “Special Place” by prose-poet Terri Ervin: “My bathroom is where I dwell. Whether it’s the rush of me having to pee or the quiet peace I feel when I close the door. Its bright pink high beam lights shine even in the dim candlelight.”
From fundamentals to the profound, PPL invests in humanity. Project for Pride in Living services aren’t exclusive to metro Minneapolis; they also oversee roughly 175 apartments in St. Paul.
Suffice to say, PPL’s mission is a great deal more than institutional lip-service. It puts resources where its mouth is to strengthen citizens. “We are trusted,” Steve Cramer sums up, “to make a difference.” Said trust, evidently, is well placed.

To learn more about PPL, visit its website at
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.