City awarded federal grant to reduce violence at Little Earth in S. Mpls

The City Attorney’s Office has been awarded a federal grant to reduce and prevent violent crime in the Little Earth community in South Minneapolis.

The $155,522 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will help community leaders focus on ways to improve safety and encourage more community engagement in an area that has had serious challenges with violent crime and heroin use.

The Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program planning grant will be used to pay for a part-time community safety champion, communication education coordinator and other staff to assist in analyzing the drivers of crime in the community and creating a culturally specific plan to reduce crime.

The city received another Byrne grant a year ago to focus on violent crime hot spots in North Minneapolis. 

Little Earth is a 212-unit public housing complex home to nearly 1,000 residents in the Phillips neighborhood. It’s the nation’s only public housing community that gives preference to Native American people.

The community is home to more than three dozen tribal nations and 50 percent of the residents are under the age of 18.

Robert Lilligren, president and CEO of the Little Earth Residents Association and former City Council vice president, said the community has become a national model. It was founded by community activists in 1973 to create more affordable housing.

“People look to Little Earth on how to address issues with the urban Indian community,” he said during a presentation Morning before the City Council’s Ways & Means Committee.

While the community has many strengths, he said there are public safety challenges given many residents live “daily with the impacts of historic trauma, cultural trauma and early childhood exposure to violence,” he said.

Mayor Betsy Hodges thanked Lilligren and other city leaders for their work to improve quality of life for people in Little Earth.

“We are blessed in Minneapolis to have the densest urban American Indian community in America, and Little Earth is the heart of it,” she said in a statement. “Improving community safety in Little Earth will improve community safety across our whole city.”