“We’re Treated like Bums” Despite Holding Jobs, Paying Taxes

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Click to watch Stories of Need: Dennis

Click to watch Stories of Need: Dennis

Click to watch Stories of Need: Dennis

Dennis and Deborah are like a lot of Minnesotans. They’ve put in decades of hard work at their jobs, pay their taxes and rarely ask for help… until now. Earlier this year they lost their jobs and on May 22nd a tornado that devastated Minneapolis’ north side destroyed their home.

Their family of seven was forced to seek refuge in the local Armory and at the North Commons Recreation Center. For weeks, they and their five children slept on cots on the floor of a gymnasium. But with five children — one of whom is 21 and has a mental disability — the shelters offered by the City of Minneapolis weren’t the right fit. Instead they spent weeks in limbo in a hotel room in Brooklyn Center.

“It’s kind of hard to find housing when you have a large family,” said Deborah. “If we go into a shelter, (our eldest son) will be left out on the street.”

Dennis and Deborah boasted long histories of stable employment before the storm. She worked in the hotel industry for over 15 years and was a manager of major hotels. He was a welder and a restaurant cook. Yet the couple feels as though they’ve been treated like jobless, homeless people.

“We’re being treated like bums,” Deborah said. “But I have paid taxes. I didn’t ask the state for anything — until the storm.”

“We are tornado victims,” said Dennis. “We should be getting help. … To make a long story short, nothing is happening.”

• Dennis, Deborah and the family have just moved into a rental property. The Salvation Army helped with the deposit.
• They currently need school clothes, shoes and supplies for their children. Cash donations or Gift cards are suggested.
• A nonprofit has stepped up to replace damaged furniture, but they could still use a television to replace the one they lost in the storm
• Employment to replace jobs lost as a result of their instability following the storm. Dennis is an experienced chef/cook and Deborah has much experience in the Hotel management industry.

North Minneapolis is a neighborhood in need of solutions. Poverty, lack of jobs, and a housing crisis are longstanding systemic problems that were only magnified by this spring’s devastating tornado. Faced with these serious needs, creativity and innovation solution-makers are stepping forward. The UpTake’s Northside Project, with support from the Bush Foundation, is seeking out the individuals and organizations who are making inspired, positive change in North Minneapolis. But before we can illuminate the solutions, we need to understand the wide range of needs.

The UpTake is collaborating with MplsTornado.info to find Northside residents still suffering from the impacts of the tornado, thus amplifying the “storm before the storm” of economic disparity. We hope these “Stories of Need” will connect residents with people and organizations who can directly solve their needs.

To support this series documenting people in need in North Minneapolis, visit: http://mplstornado.info/

Produced by The UpTake, in collaboration with MplsTornado.info.

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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