Whittier video hopes to educate Somali tenants

The Whittier Neighbors, a community organization in the Whittier neighborhood, and the Somali Community Development Corporation have put together an informational video entitled "New Neighbors: A Place To Live," an educational film spoken in Somali with English subtitles to help the Somali community find and keep housing in Minnesota. The movie premiered at a special event at Children’s Theater on June 25.

The video hopes to lessen the culture shock of newly arrived Somali immigrants by explaining the rights and responsibilities of renting an apartment in Minnesota. Producers want to get the film in the hands of social service providers, property owners and management companies so they can show it to prospective Somali tenants.

Documentary filmmaker John Carlson made the video on a $50,000 budget from grants by the Star Tribune Foundation, the Family Housing Fund and from video sales, which are $20 a piece. Seven hundred copies were made. The film was kept to 30 minutes so it could be shown on the Somali cable-access TV. It is estimated that there are over 40,000 Somalis living in the Twin Cities.

"The Whittier Neighbors wanted to do a project for renters in the neighborhood because they are the largest segment of our neighborhood and they are the ones who are often left out of citizen participation," said Phil Schwartzberg, chair of the Whittier Neighbors.

Schwartzberg said that in Somalia, a tenant who complains to his landlord about things that do not work in the apartment can be thrown out. Thus, residents sometimes try and fix things themselves with mixed results. He said property owners could easily recoup the video’s $20 cost by having a better-educated tenant who understands to call a landlord when water from the toilet is running.

For more information on the video, contact Whittier Neighbors at 823-5797 or the Somali Community Development Corp. at 821-6996.