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Nonprofit Spotlight: Joseph Desenclos, Livability Team Supervisor, Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID)

Article by Claudia Kittock

Editor's note - This is the third in a series of articles spotlighting people who are involved with local nonprofits.

Joseph has become a cherished friend and my source for ALL things nonprofit.  I wouldn't be doing any of the work I do without him.

Joseph Desenclos

1) Tell us who you are and how you got to this position? 

I am the Livability Team Supervisor for the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID). I currently manage a staff off four Community Livability Engagement Workers. 

I advanced to the Livability Team Supervisor position as a result of my work with business stakeholders, community members and individuals experiencing homelessness when I was the Street Outreach Team Program Manager at St. Stephen’s Human Services. Additionally, I co-chair the Ending Street Homelessness Committee as part of the Minneapolis Downtown 2025 Plan.

2) What do you do in your current position?

In my current position I navigate three specific areas as it relates to the broad term of livability. On a daily basis, I collaborate with stakeholders, social service partners, law enforcement, and community residents on issues relating to public safety, environmental concerns, and human service resources.

Furthermore, I actively participate in the Minneapolis Public Health Advisory Committee, Minneapolis Police/Hennepin County Mental Health Roundtable, Minneapolis Downtown 100 Chronic Offenders Program, neighborhood safety meetings, and co-chair the Ending Street Homelessness Committee as part of the Minneapolis Downtown 2025 Plan. My involvement in these meetings greatly assists in building a robust network of public and private partners so that the MDID Livability Team can continue to be an instrumental partner in fostering a safe and hospitable city for everyone who works, lives or visits downtown Minneapolis.

"What has been most compelling
about my work is in the recognition
of the immeasurable level of compassion
that is thriving, sometimes quietly,
within our city on any given day
despite our unique differences."

3) What are you doing in your work that is working?

Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District has recently implemented the ISS/24-7 communication tool that has significantly impacted the communication between all of the homeless street outreach teams, MDID Fusion Center, and our MDID Livability Team. The introduction of this tool has assisted in streamlining service delivery to downtown stakeholders and community members by identifying the appropriate interventions for specific livability issues in real time.

Additionally, in my role I have the opportunity to reach out to the business stakeholders, community residents, and individuals experiencing homelessness in downtown Minneapolis. What has been most compelling about my work is in the recognition of the immeasurable level of compassion that is thriving, sometimes quietly, within our city on any given day despite our unique differences.

For example, over the summer there was a man who was experiencing homelessness and cycling in and out of Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) on a weekly basis due to complex behavioral health issues. I was able to work closely with the HCMC’s Coordinated Care Clinic to identify what was needed to expedite services for positive change. The turning point came when we were able to elevate and include the concerned voices of several business stakeholders, other individuals experiencing homelessness, community residents, law enforcement, and MDID Ambassadors, human service providers who were requesting an immediate medical intervention that would honor and uphold this man’s human dignity.

Experiences like this truly offer us an opportunity to witness and embrace the soul of our city. We had an eclectic group of concerned citizens, who generally would not mix on a daily basis, all speaking with one empathetic voice to wrap the appropriate services around this man so that he may have one more chance at self-sufficiency and improved health.

4) What do you want the politicians of our city/county/state/country to know about the work you do? How can they help?

I would like our politicians, regardless of their level of governance, to know that their work greatly impacts the work that our team and I do on a daily basis in our city. In July of 2016, we conducted a livability survey and the findings reflected that, for the most part, despite our racial and economic differences, we agreed that public safety was our number one concern, followed by walkability, cleanliness, and access to services. These citizen-inspired concerns should be the pillars of our collective work in Minneapolis in 2017.

Individuals in public governance can help by doing the following:

· Work towards equality as it relates to building truly affordable new housing options in Minneapolis to prevent and end homelessness.
· Actively address the communities concerns for public safety in the spirit of equity where if an individual is committing a crime they are held accountable in a manner that is fair and just in adherence to our laws and constitution.
· Continue to highlight our city’s ability to build strong and diverse public/private partnerships to implement change.
· Move from focusing on systematic change to citizen-centered change in public service delivery to allow for governmental services to be delivered in a manner that is both efficient and consumer-based.

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Questions or feedback for Joseph? You can reach him at the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, 917 5th Avenue S, or 612-418-1247.

Claudia can be reached at

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