Cultural Impact of Highway Disaster Concerns Refugees

Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood is located just South of the eight-lane bridge that recently collapsed into the Mississippi River. It is home to several thousand Somali immigrants. Shukri Adan, a local business owner, talks about how the disaster could potentially change the dynamics of her community.

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CHERYL CORLEY, host:

Shukri Adan is with us now. She is the owner of Universal Home Healthcare, which serves Somali residents in Minneapolis. She also joins us from Minnesota Public Radio in Minneapolis. Thanks for joining us.

Ms. SHUKRI ADAN (President, Universal Home Healthcare, Inc.): Thank you.

CORLEY: Well, tell us a little bit about your business. Who do you serve?

Ms. ADAN: We help people who are unable to speak English to be provided with culturally competent employees from their background to help them take care of themselves at home, versus going into a nursing home, let's say. We serve elderly people in the immigrant community, from the Somali community, the Ethiopian community, some African communities that are refugees to the United States.

CORLEY: Mm-hmm. And where, exactly, is your business located in relation to the bridge? Ms. ADAN: We may be seven blocks to downtown and another two blocks to the bridge.

CORLEY: How has your business been affected by the bridge collapse?

Ms. ADAN: A lot of the clients we serve are refugees, and they're very anxious. A lot of people have issues with post-traumatic stress disorder and they seem to have really heightened sense of anxiety.

CORLEY: Could you talk about that a little bit more? How did that compare to you?

Ms. ADAN: When people were coming over from Somalia, a lot of people came on boats to come to Kenya, and so there was a lot of drownings, in the thousands. And so most people were witness to that - boats capsizing and people drowning and being unable to do anything for them. And so those images were pretty much, sadly, the same. That kind of brought up the conversation again in the community about all the people that had lost, family members, close friends that I know who lost entire families coming over and happened to be either the only person left in the family to be rescued or a friend or, you know. So those images brought those memories back.

CORLEY: Tell me about you. Is your family safe and are your friends safe?

Ms. ADAN: Yes. I was concerned about a lot of the employees leaving work, going to their clients back and forth to work. And I was - we checked on a lot of people on their cell phones and on their home numbers just to make sure everyone had got home safe because a lot of people use that bridge to and from work.

CORLEY: Mm-hmm. And are you involved or you do know of any kind of relief effort that's going on?

Ms. ADAN: The African Chamber of Commerce in Karmel Mall has been calling all businesses to make sure that everybody is doing well and whether they needed any help, because we have a lot of people that don't speak English but own stores and minority-owned businesses in malls.

And some people didn't show up to open this morning, as well as just closing late at night and wondering, you know, the traffic, how they would get out of, you know, their businesses to go home. And I am aware of some nonprofit organizations that had also opened really late into the evening to make sure that if anyone needed any calls or help with translation that they were available.

CORLEY: You've talked a little bit about how a number of people in the community are refugees and have gone through civil war. How does this type of disaster resonate with them?

Ms. ADAN: It's sad that we have this in common now, but a lot of the people have had the same experience so they feel some kinship, in that they went through the same things. And it just - it brings the level of anxiety up.

CORLEY: And how are people coping with that?

Ms. ADAN: Just talking in the community to each other. And I just came from Karmel Mall, which is one of the shopping malls that Somalis frequent, and it just seems for a weekday that they had a lot more people. And they're just talking about what was going on. They were even able to save anyone, and there was groups of people congregating then just talking about it.

CORLEY: Mm-hmm. Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. ADAN: Thank you for having me.

CORLEY: Shukri Adan is the owner of Universal Home Healthcare, a home healthcare agency in Minneapolis. Thank you again.

Ms. ADAN: Thank you.

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