Gordon Center: Northside Advocacy Fundraiser

Northside community organizers and residents, as well as NRRC, are raising funds to cover the cost of filing an injunction to stop the City Planning Commission vote on Sept 8th (note the vote has been moved back from the original Aug 17th). The cost of legal fees are projected to be $5,500. All monies not used for legal action to block this vote will be donated to NRRC and local BIPOC-led NGOs. As we continue to fundraise, all receipts for legal services will be posted back into this gofundme and will be able to be third-party verified by the law firm. We believe this is likely the only way this proposal will be able to be blocked.


The Willard School (in particular, the Gordon Center) has been asked to be used by community members on the Northside for youth development and programming for years, without support. We ask for the county to chose another location and give the community a year to fundraise both privately and publically to bring the building to usable condition and propose RFPs for community uses.

This proposal has not included the community or BIPOC leadership on the Northside. BIPOC leadership is firmly in opposition to this proposal.

o   Kerry Jo Felder, our School Board District President is against this proposal.

o   NRRC, our community council (whose name was used in the application for approval) stands against this proposal.

o   A Mothers Love, Mad Dads, and many other local BIPOC grassroots organizations stand against this proposal. Northside leaders find the Application for Land Use disturbing as it creates an impression to the City Council that there is Northside community (particularly NRRC) support, a support that this proposal firmly lacks.


1) Out of three women-only emergency and long-terms shelter locations across the City of Minneapolis, two of them are within a mile of the Willard School site.  30% of homeless folks report having last had a N. Minneapolis address. 37% of people experiencing homelessness identify as black. If this proposal passes, 75% of women-only shelters and transitional housing will be in North Minneapolis. All within a mile radius of each other. 

2) This zoning has no precedent. There are no emergency shelters in a low-density R1/2A neighborhood in the city of Minneapolis. Emergency shelters in Minneapolis are in mixed zoned areas. The proposed Gordon Center shelter is not next to any such mixed-zone properties and is squarely within residential homes. Residents were not notified in the time required and black leaders were not asked to participate in the selection of this site.

3)  This short-term, high-volume crisis shelter will be closed during the day, making its clients leave each morning to enter a residential neighborhood with no coffee shop, public library, grocery store, or social space within walking distance. There is not a place to buy food or water, or a public restroom, within walking distance. There is not a heated public building within walking distance. This does nothing to serve the critical clients' daily needs. This lack of access is why shelters of this nature are in more diverse zoning locations and if technically in a residential neighborhood, are immediately adjacent to a commercial corridor.

4) The Gordon Center will not allow for families or children. The proposed shelter is considered “high-capacity”, and will serve as a city-wide shelter. Because it is emergency and short-term only (30 days or less), by design, it is not a fit for a residential neighborhood. Minneapolis should not experiment with zoning emergency shelters in residential areas that are disenfranchised, like Willard Hay.  

 5) The shelter works against the city’s and the community’s 2040 zoning goals for the Penn corridor. The zoning goals are diametrically opposed to this proposal, as is the Hennepin County commissions’ own statements supporting the 2040 zoning goals. This shelter does not comply with current or future community-identified needs as cited in Penn corridor community-solicited feedback.  

6) The project is underfunded; currently the budget is set at a yearly $660,000 annual budget. By comparison, St. Anne's, a well-respected shelter nearby, has an 800k+ annual budget and serves roughly 1/8th the number of women intended to be served at the Gordon Center. As a high-volume emergency shelter, they already do not have the funds or services to be responsible to their presence in a residential R1 neighborhood. There are no BIPOC leaders on the Northside involved in this project, a concerning difference from other successful shelters in our community. It is underfunded and underserved before it has even opened.
 7) The current administrator of the initiative is the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has a long history of transphobia; a womyn-only shelter deserves better than the standards of care demonstrated by the Salvation Army. To say this choice of administrator is problematic is an understatement.  

8) The city has received 4.9 million in emergency COVID funding to find usable space for this shelter; enough money to buy or rent another building for shelter needs rather than paying those funds to convert this space from its natural use.

9) The community asks for a year to raise the public and private funds to rehab the Gordon building and submit RFPs (proposals) for community use. If we are unable to either raise the funds or propose and multi-phased plan to rehab and utilize the building, then we will engage the county in a dialogue about county uses. But we ask for the chance.

The county can find another location for this shelter and the Northside community can utilize the school to serve it's youth which it has asked to do for years. This could be a win/win rather than a lose/lose for the Northside.


Northside Collective
Minneapolis, MN

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