The Augsburg Health Commons are health-focused, nurse-led, drop-in centers that serve marginalized populations in local context. We provide basic care to people, meeting them physically where they are at. The first Health Commons location, which has been established for close to thirty years, is located downtown Minneapolis at Central Lutheran Church, where there are other programs that attend to the struggles of those experiencing homelessness or who are marginally housed. The other programs on site include a free clothing closet, community meals, and an advocacy group. During caring moments at this site, called the Augsburg Central Health Commons, people receive diapers, socks, and other hygiene items and can also meet one-on-one with a nurse. Diapers are a commonly requested resource as WIC and food stamps don’t cover the expenses of diapers. Typically, many of the people who come are living in transitional housing options, staying with family, or are in emergency shelters.
During the pandemic, we continued to stay open and provide our services, but we were restricted in how many people were allowed into the drop-in at one time. Those individuals who typically came looking for diapers changed to people who were asking to get the diapers for their neighbors or friends who couldn’t leave their kids at home during the pandemic, and who were often juggling multiple kids in distance learning, and the stressors of jobs and the endless chaos that we all endured. One woman who did come to get the diapers literally wept when we were able to give her an entire box due to her constraints in coming to the facility. The stress of finding, securing, and having diapers continued to surface in ways such as this. We had to change the way we envisioned our work and what it meant to provide diapers in the midst of a pandemic.
The Health Commons in Cedar-Riverside is situated in the tall, colorful housing units that are off I-94. In these high rises, close to 7,000 reside, many of them immigrants from East Africa that had fled civil war. This location has been in existence since 2011 and has newly joined the Diaper Bank of Minnesota partnership. During the pandemic, social distancing measures were near impossible to comply with due to the limited space offered in these housing units. There are many multi-generational families that live in a single unit and many of the renters have assistance through government supported housing programs. There are not many places nearby to purchase diapers, similar to the situation of fresh fruits and vegetables, as the nearest grocery store is almost a mile away. Diapers are a cost but also cause such stress in how and where people will be able to access them. Things like transportation, time, language barriers, means to transport the diapers all complicate the situation. Having diapers on site allows us to not only engage in responding to expressed felt need, but to have a way to begin important conversations around people’s situation and health concerns in meaningful ways.
Before the partnership with the Diaper Bank of Minnesota, we struggled to find the funds to purchase diapers for our guests. Now that need is often not only met, but we have more in storage, ready for the next ask. We are forever grateful for our partnership and for the amazing work the Diaper Bank has done and continues to do. We have been working with them for over a decade and counting… Please consider in supporting the Diaper Bank of Minnesota through donations, volunteering, or sharing the stories of their important work.