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Our View: Don't forget Union Gospel Mission

There are these slim, pocket-sized brochures that list soup kitchens, emergency shelters, medical facilities, and other resources and that are carried by officers in the Duluth Police Department. The officers hand them out regularly to those expe...

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Cameron Cardow/Cagle Cartoons

There are these slim, pocket-sized brochures that list soup kitchens, emergency shelters, medical facilities, and other resources and that are carried by officers in the Duluth Police Department. The officers hand them out regularly to those experiencing homeless or who are in need of a bit of help.

The brochures mark a far more humane and certainly more dignified policing approach from the old "two-minute drill" that officers were taught, even just a couple decades ago.

"In and out in two minutes or less ... so calls don't stack up," Chief Mike Tusken, who learned the drill after joining the Duluth department in 1992, recalled in an interview last week with the News Tribune Opinion page. "Our role now is to be a resource in the community."

And that's great - no matter how long it may take with individuals in need.

Except one problem: Those brochures - the "Duluth Police Department's Homeless Resource Guide: A List of Services You May Need" - are missing at least one pretty big resource available here in Duluth. The Union Gospel Mission isn't listed.

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And Sunday, when the News Tribune Opinion page highlighted those same community resources, using the brochure as its source, the Union Gospel Mission wasn't listed there, either.

Executive Director Susan Jordahl-Bubacz's phone started ringing almost immediately.

"'Are you guys still there? Aren't you operating anymore? Where have my donations been going then?' It has been crazy," Jordahl-Bubacz said Tuesday in a chat with the Opinion page.

The short answer: The Union Gospel Mission is very much still there and operating - just like it has been for 95 years, ever since 1922. It's the oldest soup kitchen north of the Twin Cities and the only soup kitchen in Duluth that operates seven days a week, that serves three meals a day on weekdays, and that welcomes anyone from anywhere in the state, Jordahl-Bubacz said.

The nonprofit at 219 E. First St. also has a food shelf open five days a week, a clothing exchange, and 20 rooms of transitional housing.

"We were created (just prior to) the Great Depression by 22 Duluth-area churches of all denominations. Back then that was pretty unheard of for (different faiths) to come together. But they did for the common good of the people," Jordahl-Bubacz said. "They came together for food, shelter, and hope because things were so hopeless then. ... That remains our mission: food, shelter and hope."

Duluth's Union Gospel Mission served 85,000 meals last year, each one of them a nugget of hope.

Its omission from the police department's brochure was, simply, "an error in finalizing the final draft," Tusken said this week. Its omission from Sunday's paper also was an honest oversight.

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But here's good news: The department is printing new brochures, and "the mission will make the next printing," Tusken said.

In a city where resources are generous, none ought to be forgotten.

Opinion by News Tribune Editorial Board
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