Forging strong connections

Tubman Center provides broad range of services for people in crisis

Staff at the Tubman Center in Minnepolis support women, children and families struggling with relationship violence, substance abuse and mental health. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Jose Torres, 12, started Tubman Center’s Inspiring Youth Program after missing classes at school for about three months.

His mentor in the program, Hans Olson, helped him find a stable school and overcome multiple stressors, including eviction and in-family fighting. Olson has met with Torres every week for the past year, helping him become more outgoing and confident.

The Inspiring Youth program is one of 23 Tubman Center offers out of its youth and family services department. All told, the Minneapolis nonprofit serves tens of thousands of women, children and families struggling with relationship violence, substance abuse and mental health each year, providing them with a variety of services at no cost to them.

The roots of Tubman Center go back more than 40 years to the foundation of Chrysalis, A Center for Women, which was founded in 1974. That organization has since merged with the Harriet Tubman Center, the Family Violence Network and ElderCare Rights Alliance.

The organization provides shelter and housing, counseling and therapy, elder-abuse resources, sexual-exploitation resources, legal services and more to clients. It serves more than 40,000 people in Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties and the surrounding areas each year, providing more than 20 percent of shelter beds for Minnesota women and children experiencing family violence.

At least 22 women and three men died from domestic violence in 2015 and at least nine family members and friends were murdered, according to a Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women report. One in three teens experience dating violence, and one out of five girls and one of 10 boys will be sexually victimized by the time they reach adulthood, according to Tubman Center.

Tubman offers shelter and a 24-hour crisis line for people experiencing this sort of violence. It has 128 shelter beds in its two Twins Cities area facilities, including beds specifically for young victims of sex trafficking.

The center offers these clients a wide range of counseling and therapy services, including dialectical behavior therapy to help people regulate emotions.

“We’re a full on mental health clinic,” said Birgit Kelly, associate director of clinical services. “People can come here and get most if not all of their mental health needs.”

Kelly is in charge of the dialectical behavior therapy program, which served more than 125 people from October 2015 through March. It’s an intensive outpatient program that helps people who may be highly sensitive to emotional situations.

“We teach new ways of dealing with those intense feelings,” she said. “I see it as getting back on the trajectory of development that we were meant to have.”

Tubman’s youth programs have a similar mission, working to help kids overcome trauma and utilize their strengths. Tamara Stark, director of youth and family services, said the Inspiring Youth program, for example, is designed to be holistic in building on the potential of young people.

Youth in the program meet with a Tubman staff person once a week. Together they help develop a plan to help kids through any issues they may be having, from at school to at home.

“We really try to help people see the strengths they have,” Stark said. “Those are going to be what helps propel them forward.”

Olson said developing relationships is a primary factor in bringing about positive change. The Inspiring Youth program allows for kids’ voices to be heard, he said, and helps bring about an increased sense of belonging and identity.

“It’s been great to see the transformational power that comes from strong connections and sense of belonging,” he said.

That’s been the case for Torres, who said he made a lot of new friends at his school this year. He said Olson takes care of him and his family and that another Inspiring Youth staffer helped their family when their power was cut off.

The program has been “really good,” Torres said, and has meant a lot to him.

Olson, too, has noticed a difference. He said the fifth-grader started taking guitar lessons with his sister and even attended a music camp last summer, things he may not have done before.

“It’s fun to see him come out of his shell,” Olson said. “Having someone who is consistent can help make (youth) feel more confident.”


By the numbers

1,459: Number of clients the center served in its mental and chemical health programs from October 2014 through September 2015.

4,171: Number of clients who received legal services from Tubman in 2015.

8,971: Number of youth who participated in the center’s six-week school-based violence prevention curriculum.

40,000: Number of people Tubman center helps annually.

22: Number of women in Minnesota who died from domestic abuse in 2015.


What you can do

Volunteer as an advocate, special events committee member, gardening enthusiast or more. A complete list of volunteer opportunities is available at

Donate financially or by providing goods or professional services.

Attend one of Tubman Center’s special events, such as its 23rd annual Wing Ding event Aug. 16 at The Depot in Minneapolis.


Location: 3111 1st Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55408

Contact: 612-825-3333


Year founded: 1976

About the Where We Live project

This project is an ongoing series spearheaded by Journals’ publisher Janis Hall showcasing Minneapolis nonprofits doing important work in the community. The editorial team has selected organizations to spotlight. Nate Gotlieb is the writer for the project.