Building Back Better – Northside Community Support Program
March 9, 2022
Northside Community Support Program (NCSP) provides a safe space for community members living with mental illness to connect, build community, and get mental health support. When the pandemic first struck our community, Northside staff suspended services such as support groups, open recreation time, and art groups until we better understood the virus and had systems in place to minimize the risk to our clients and staff. Some services were re-introduced a short time later on a limited basis – continuing to offer assistance navigating community services and the support of mental health professionals on an appointment basis.
The suspension of these programs highlighted just how important those connections to the community and each other were for Northside’s members.
“Northside means a lot to me because when it was closed, I didn’t have nowhere to go to enjoy myself because of Covid,” said one client of their experience.
The excitement and energy about the re-opening of Northside have been immense. When the program re-opened, it was important to the team to quickly bring back old favorite activities while also listening to the community about what they really needed.
“For the first two weeks, all we did was listen and take notes. Our community told us what they loved about coming here, their frustrations, what they thought needed to change, and what programs they wanted to see us offer,” said Joan Weatherspoon, Program Manager.
“Now that it’s open, I can come here to play cards, pool, art, and talk with employees. I can come here, and they will help me. If they can’t do it, I’m sure they will take time to get it done and call other resources,” said the same client of their experience since re-opening.
Since re-opening, the Northside Community Support Program team is focusing on building back better. The team worked with the facilities department to give the recreation room several upgrades that included repairing the well-loved pool table, creating a new art room, installing new carpet, fresh paint on the walls along with the idea for a brand new mural.
“In August, when I started at the NCSP, we met with members to discuss a “facelift” to include painting the entire main floor and replacing the carpet. It was also important to have something that was uniquely Northside. The idea of having a mural completed inside the main entry was born from this desire,” said Joan. “Tom Janssen was referred to us by one of our community partners. He has completed many murals in Minneapolis. Tom and I began discussing the vision for the mural, and we knew that we wanted it to say Northside Community Support Program and be representative of North Minneapolis. While we were working on the rendering, a client Jamel Coleman, completed a work of art in Artability with words that represented support when dealing with mental health.
“These words are common among clients, and we used them as inspiration for the mural. Tom came up with putting these words on billboards over the Minneapolis skyline and this is how the mural came about.”
In addition to building up the facilities, the program team launched many new programs in response to member requests, including game tournaments, community meals, birthday celebrations, grief support groups, art groups, support groups for men, and support groups for women. Every month, the team receives a food delivery from our partners at NorthPoint Food Shelf and distributes it to Northside neighbors. Some of them may not otherwise be able to access these resources independently. The team has also hosted winter clothing giveaways – a program that would not be possible without the generous contributions of many community partners over the past few months.