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Sharing and Caring Thoughts

April 19, 2008 1:03 AM

There's been much in the news lately about Sharing and Caring Hands and its proximity to the ballpark. In short, the city says it's just trying to address security issues, while Mary Jo Copeland (who founded and runs the organization) feels like she's about to be run out of town.

Sharing and Caring Hands

Sharing and Caring Hands, as viewed from the ballpark site about a block away. Note transaction in progress in the shadows.

It's a delicate thing, and I've been trying to put words to my feelings.

Every time I read about Mary Jo, my gut tells me that something just isn't right. She's so quick with the media, and she's so quick to play the "I'm just helping the homeless" card. She's so quick to name (and demonize) her adversaries -- even those who share her goals. She's so quick to put on the "poor little me" rhetoric. She never seems to be at fault.

If I haven't made this clear before, I find media manipulation to be rather seedy and distasteful. (You don't have to remind me that it happens all the time.) This is just the type of story that the media loves because it's got everything: sex, drugs, money, power, David vs. Goliath etc. And Mary Jo seems to always find a way to get the preemptive strike, which certainly happened this week with a press conference and a protest march.

I know the work is important. I'm glad her organization exists. I admire her stated goals, and her tireless approach. It's probably just about the hardest work there is in our society. It's very messy work, and maintaining the dignity and trust of the people she serves is a very important part of the work. That part is especially fragile, and can deteriorate rapidly if there are too many cameras or too many security guards.

But it is possible to do the work she does and avoid creating a haven for drugs and other illegal activity. Not only possible -- it is essential. An open-air drug market is just as bad for those in need of Mary Jo's help as it is anywhere else. It's unlikely that the drug dealers are there for the soup.

This is where the city is taking her to task, and from what I've read about the police calls, they have a right and obligation to do so. (Unfortunately, they are sometimes idiots at PR -- at least they're no match for Mary Jo.)

Mysterious Snoboy sign

Off-topic, but this gigantic, cool, retro sign is just across the street from S&CH. Why? I don't know. Might look nice on top of one of those municipal parking ramps...

With a ballpark as her neighbor, her visibility just went way up, and with that comes some (probably unpleasant) scrutiny.

I've walked the neighborhood a number of times now, and stand by my impression that people walking past that place on the way to or from a game may not feel safe. That is not a function of what they do at Sharing and Caring Hands, but how they are doing it.

Seeing or encountering a person in need of food or a place to shower or sleep is not what I'm talking about. These people are often indistinguishable from a ballpark-goer (especially the needing a shower part). I'm talking about recognizing that there are people within that crowd who are there for a very different purpose, and taking advantage of the loose atmosphere in order to do it.

This will be a tough one for the city. They will need more finesse than they've shown so far. And until they can be counted on in that regard, the Twins should probably steer clear of this issue altogether. It really isn't a deal-breaker for the site at all, just something they need to plan for when putting together stadium security.

There may not be a better location for Sharing and Caring Hands, and I don't think that forcing them out of the neighborhood is in anyone's best interest. But I do believe that they have a responsibility as neighbors (not just of the ballpark) to police the activity associated with their facility. If the city is genuine, that's all they're asking for.

If they are not genuine, it's another issue. There's no question that the value of the land has increased. All of Mary Jo's suspicions are circumstantial -- but easily understood.

Most of all, these parties need to talk to one another and leave the media out of it for a while. I hope the planned meeting next week is a success.

Three Quick Photos

I've got a lot of stuff to weed through, but I shot these the other day and don't want to wait.

TCF Bank Stadium

TCF Bank Stadium. Not for baseball, but still pretty cool to watch being built.


Knotholes

Some of Minneapolis' finest checking out the construction through a spot where a knothole will be one day.


Reverse view

A view of construction from the B ramp. This looks toward Seventh Street, over what will be Gate 34 (the main entrance).


Comments


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Nicely put Rick. Perhaps someday when real estate is back up, some developer will offer Mary Jo a price that she can't refuse for her property. She can take the money and find another spot along Plymouth Ave or perhaps that Orphanage in Eagan. All of this of course would be moot if one of those meth labs inside her apt complex goes bad, then we can start the development immediately....yes i know...god will get me for that one.

But I don't think we should stop after Sharing and Caring Hands' property. It would really be beneficial for the area if Hennepin Cty were to build another garbage burner somewhere else. Think of the positive development that could happen on that piece of land...Or at the very least, make it a tailgating lot for those die-hards who insist on grilling their own meat.

Posted on April 19, 2008 at 02:49 AM by kevin in az Highlight this comment 1

Nice write up Rick. You made some very good points. Balanced and fair. Or is it fair & balanced? I don't watch that Fox News Channel crap, so I am not really sure.

:-)

Posted on April 19, 2008 at 1:08 PM by Betaband Highlight this comment 2

nicely done!! thanks for throwing me a tailgating bone kev lol

Posted on April 19, 2008 at 5:21 PM by mazaratirick Highlight this comment 3

I think you are spot on with this. MJC realizes she can mobilize a group of people to defend her who might not normally by pitting herself as the victim of the big bad stadium and the minneapolis pd.

the fact of the matter is that had it not been the Twins ballpark, she would have found some other reason that she was being hassled instead of simply being asked to work on the criminal element that is often found near her center.

truth is, a place like hers can coexist with a major sports facility. in downtown st. paul, the xcel center is a neighbor of the dorothy day house, with minimal complaints or problems.

if you notice, the salvation army shelter which is also in that same area is not reporting any such problem. perhaps this is because the complaint by the police has merit at her location.

Posted on April 19, 2008 at 5:44 PM by CJ Highlight this comment 4

Hey Rick, thanks for posting the pic of the Snoboy logo. My dad worked for that company for thirty years and at this site for nearly 25. My brother and I went down there with a few years ago and snapped a couple pics of him standing in the foreground of that great neon sign. You're right, that sign needs to be prominent somewhere where fans at the park can see it better! Baseball and nostalgic ads go hand in hand.

Posted on April 19, 2008 at 7:42 PM by Tim Highlight this comment 5



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