1930 to 1935
“In the depth of the Great Depression, unemployed transients loiter in the Gateway district of downtown Minneapolis.” *
Many great cities are renowned for their entrances: Paris has the Arc d’ Triumph, India has the Buland Darwaza, and Jerusalem has the Golden Gate (Sha’ar HaRachamim). Minneapolis wanted to create a beautiful structure to welcome visitors into Minneapolis as they came from the train station. In 1915, the city built a gateway pavilion, flanked by curving colonades, that surrounded a Civil War memorial fountain and flagpole and pathway. Known as Gateway Park, the surrounding area adopted the title of the Gateway District.**The Gateway District of Minneapolis was centered at the convergence of Hennepin Avenue, Nicollet Avenue, and Washington Avenue.***
So, how did this this transition from fabulous to flophouse happen in the next two decades? Author David L. Rosheim did extensive research into the decay of this neighborhood in his book; “The Other Minneapolis or The Rise and Fall of the Gateway, The Old Minneapolis Skid Row”.****
“According to Rosheim, as unemployment rose, so did the hobo population. A new demographic of this drifter population was youth, driven away from home by poverty, or perhaps in pursuit of better opportunities.
Public relief rose drastically during this period. In 1930, an estimated $215,000 was spent on Minneapolis Poor Relief. Charities such as the Union City Mission continued to serve free meals if the visitor listened to a sermon. The Minneapolis City Council raised funds through bond issues to begin construction on public projects, in hopes of making a dent in the massive unemployment rate.” ***
What can be said about poverty that has not been said? What were the judgments of these primarily male vagabonds against Minneapolis, society, and themselves? What cultural transference resulted from the relationships in the Gateway District?
Will You bless both those who wish to beautify the public spaces of the city, and those who wish to make use of those places? Will You forgive the judgments of those who took too much pride in the sanctity of this park, and the judgments of those who take too little pride in themselves or their public conduct? We have failed You on both ends to see the message brought by those who have different motives than ours. Have mercy.
Will You forgive, where it applies, the pridefulness of the alcoholics, and addicts of this era? We are guilty of trying to solve our problems on our own, and have rejected the help that comes from being open to new relationships because we would rather hold onto our pain. When and where Minneapolitans have suffered foolishly rather than accepting kind and useful input into our bad choices; have mercy!
Will You forgive both the misogyny and misandry of the sex trafficking of this era? We have sexualized the need for touch, and have rejected true affection. We have chosen either to take money to submit to abuse, or pay money to be the abuser.
We have judged the opposite sex falsely in the transaction of prostitution. Our men have wanted women for sex, but not considered them worthy of relationship. Our women have viewed men as incapable of love, so they might as well be an open wallet. Will You forgive the sexual sins that result in sex trafficking then, now and future?
Will You forgive the shame of these men for being poor and alone? The Great Depression was so very costly to many, and its pain lives in the false self assessment that we are what we do and own. Will You lift this pain and shame up, out, and onto the Cross of Christ?
Will You forgive “functional” society its judgments of these men, and this District? Many of us live under the premise; “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” This maxim recognizes the benefits of mutually beneficial relationships. But what is one to do when those relationships are gone, and basic trust of society is broken? Have mercy on our judgments of Your broken sons and daughters of the Great Depression, as well as their children, and their grandchildren.
Will You forgive the “dysfunctional” portion of society its judgments of those outside the Gateway? A criminal or debaucherous subculture often makes a mockery of the culture of innocence and lawfulness. Will You forgive any defiance that took place in the geography of the Gateway District against the laws of Minnesota, and more importantly, the laws of the Only Just One?
We ask Your blessing on Minneapolis, the former grounds of Gateway Park, and the Gateway District to replace the curses we’ve sown. Will You bless those in our state experiencing poverty of mind, body, spirit, and property to turn to You for help? Will You grant the spirit of gratitude to replace the spirit of entitlement? Will You help givers to be humble? Will You help those receiving charity to give respect and honor due to those who give freely? We invite You to be the Gatekeeper of Minneapolis!
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel- not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:4-9 NIV*****
**** Rosheim, David L. The Other Minneapolis or The Rise and Fall of the Gateway, The Old Minneapolis Skid Row. Maquoketa, IA: The Andromeda Press, 1978.