In other neighborhoods, the loss of about 1,000 housing units would be terrible, because it would mean that 1,000 households would be looking for new housing.
In north Minneapolis, the loss of about 1,000 housing units will mean homelessness for twice that many families, because north Minneapolis is steeped in poverty, and doubling up is a way of life.
In other neighborhoods, a large percentage of the displaced households would have insurance settlements to look forward to, for making repairs, replacing lost items and covering the temporary expense of an apartment or a hotel.
In north Minneapolis, only a small percentage of the displaced households will have any insurance to call on, because north Minneapolis is steeped in poverty and insurance is a luxury.
In other neighborhoods, a large number of displaced households would be a burden for the community to shoulder, but over a period of three to six or nine months almost all of those households would have found renewed stability in repaired or replaced housing.
In north Minneapolis, the newly displaced households have joined the thousands already in the government system of inadequate support to low income households. The newly displaced will have to fight for a place in line along with their neighbors who were already in line. They will find that, even if they have resources, the vacancy rate in affordable housing is effectively zero, so finding a new place will take a long time. If they have no resources, they will cycle through doubled-up housing, shelters and cheap motels, for years.
North Minneapolis is steeped in poverty and the newly displaced can only join the previously displaced in a system that has few resources and no answers.
In other neighborhoods, community leaders would already have active, open lines of communication among themselves and would swing into action right now to get things moving and to get attention focused on both the immediate and long-term needs of the neighborhood.
In north Minneapolis, in my experience, those lines are neither active nor open, and the community leaders are more likely to fight each other for position and resources than join together in a coordinated plan.
If this tornado exposes these conditions to the larger community, and if that larger community is finally appalled by these conditions and brings its collective wisdom, money and energy to bear, this tornado could do some good, both for north Minneapolis and the city of Minneapolis.
But it's more likely that the attention will shift away pretty soon, to the Vikings stadium question or to the state budget battle or to anything else that is not so depressing. And the residents of north Minneapolis will be left alone, as they usually are, to make their way through the usual channels to find the relief and assistance that is available, meager as it is. And nothing in the end will have changed, except that the problems of north Minneapolis will have grown a bit worse.
Leslie Frost, now retired, was the executive director of Families Moving Forward, a faith-based family homeless shelter in north Minneapolis, from 2002 to 2009. Before that, she practiced law and worked as a planned giving officer. She is a source in MPR's Public Insight Network.