MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Leaders in downtown Minneapolis are trying something they’ve never done before. It’s an unconventional effort to make Nicollet Mall safer for everyone.

Last week, WCCO showed you what life is like recently on Nicollet Mall during the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw fighting, medical emergencies and the need for housing.

As of Monday, there are some new peacemakers on the street.

“Several outreach works talking to people on that stretch of Nicollet,” said Steve Cramer, president of the Downtown Council. “We will also have additional law enforcement and the program will last from 11 in the morning to 9 at night to really try and create a better safer, more pleasing place for everyone.”

The four-week program has 25 people a day walking and talking to people on the streets.

The program has several different agencies, DID, Youth Link and MAD DADS.

We caught MAD DADS, a group who fights drugs and social disorder in action trying to give hope – to those at their wits end.

“I want you to build more homes for the homeless — please in Gods name we’re tired of being out here,” Danielle Collins said.

“Our job is to find out what the need mental resources, treatment resources. Find out what they need and get them the resources they need,” said VJ Smith, president of MAD DADS of Minneapolis.

Charles Wiggins is with the Downtown Council’s Livability Team who are on the same mission.

“It’s a slow process out here, there’s lot of mental health and trauma,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins is a veteran was once was homeless himself. He’s devoted years to helping others make the transition he so successfully made. He says the work is slow and tedious, but the payoff can be large and gratifying.

“Not that I’m Superman, but I’m hoping we can get this together and we can help as many people as possible,” Wiggins said.

The new street team is working from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday along the Nicollet Mall from 5th Street to Grant Street.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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