People’s Center has fascinating past, exciting future


People’s Center staff (Photo courtesy of People’s Center)

The People’s Center Health Services has had a commitment to being tied to the community for 47 years. Just ask Sahra Noor, chief executive officer of People’s Center Health Services. Noor started at the clinic as a patient, and now she has served in her current role for about two years.

Before she became CEO, Noor said, “I used to be a patient of this clinic when I was in college attending nursing school at St. Katherine’s University in the 1990s. They cared for me very well. Since then, I have been a nurse at Hennepin County Medical Center.

“Then I did some programs in administration at United Health Group, the University of Minnesota, and I just recently came from Fairview Health Services as their director of community health and language services.” Noor is a nurse by career background.

“We have served anyone who has come to our clinic over the years,” she continued. “We have served the Caucasian population. We served Korean immigrants when they first came to the neighborhood. We serve Vietnamese [and] Hmong as well.

The People’s Center is a community health organization that provides medical, dental, and behavioral health services, and they provide health support services for low- to middle-income families and communities in the Twin Cities. “We serve 9,000 patients annually,” Noor told the MSR.

“Patients visit with medical and dental staff, and if they need a counselor or social worker, they are afforded those opportunities, too! We also have a medical legal partnership, so if a patient has legal issues, we will provide that [type of] support in the clinic as well.”

The Center provides interpreters for patient visits as well: “About 56 percent of the patients that we serve use interpreter services.” According to Noor, about half of the Center’s patients are Somali and other East African refugees and immigrants.

Patient payment can vary. Patients can pay through their insurance, out-of-pocket, or based on a sliding fee scale. “We do not turn anyone away regardless of their inability to pay,” Noor said.

There are four clinic sites across South Minneapolis: Cedar-Riverside (West Bank area of Minneapolis), two satellite clinics in the Phillips neighborhood (one based in a homeless shelter and a school-based clinic), and a full family dental clinic in the Longfellow neighborhood.

Noor proudly noted, “We have a fascinating history. Our organization was started by community activists in 1968, who felt that the mainstream healthcare system was not serving the low-income multicultural communities that were in the West Bank area at the time.

“They really wanted to make sure that health care was affordable, accessible, and close to home. So, they ran the clinic as a volunteer clinic for many years. They had a food co-op, they had a free clinic, and they really created a hub for all the community’s long-term residents, the new refugees and immigrants, to come together and use this as the Peoples’ Center. The founders wanted people to come together and be in a kind of judgement-free environment.”

Asked how she thinks her clients are affected by racial and health disparities, Noor commented, “I think they are affected significantly. About over 90 percent of our patients are living below the poverty line. There is a significant number of our patients who are unemployed or do not have stable housing. So, they are really not getting the level of healthcare prevention and intervention that they need. So we see an increase in obesity, an increase in depression and in mental illness, substance abuse. We also see an increase of diabetes and hypertension in these communities.

“Our vision is to make sure that we have equity to provide the community with these wraparound services to treat the [whole person].” The People’s Center is moving closer and closer to a complete holistic health approach for patients, according to Noor. They are working to close the gap of disparities.

“We are excited about our future,” she said. “We are going to be growing our services. We are going to be increasing our dental clinic services by adding another clinic; opening an eye and vision clinic; doubling our health program in the next year.

“We are also going to be adding a mind and body clinic. A lot of patients that we serve have chronic pain, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and we feel like by adding this mind-body medicine program we can kind of address issues that medication cannot address. We want to give people hope that they can reach their full potential and be as healthy as possible.”

If you are looking for healthcare providers in the Cedar-Riverside area and surrounding areas, check out the People’s Center. They are happy to serve you and your family.


Contact the Peoples Center at 612-332-4973 or visit their website at This story is supported in part by a grant from the Medtronic Foundation.

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