Healing Path Wellness Services was severely damaged by fire in the days following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody. Contact information and records for many clients were lost.
Now, after repairs were completed in March, owner Sulekha Ibrahim plans to reopen the mental health services clinic on May 1.
The clinic recently received a grant of up to $100,000 from the Lake Street Council to help fund the rebuilding and expand the business. Healing Path also raised more than $100,000 through an online funding campaign.
"Even though it burned down, I wanted to return because I was committed to serving the community," Ibrahim said. "I felt like the community was grieving. It was best to remain in that area to be present to provide resources and services."
That connection is central to Josey Perez as well. Perez's wellness clinic, Premier Health Chiropractors of South Minneapolis at 1813 E. Lake St., serves mostly working-class people of color. His typical clients are low- to middle-income laborers in the restaurant, manufacturing and cleaning sectors, said Perez, who founded the clinic in 2007.
Most of his clients are immigrants who "don't always feel confident" going to traditional hospitals and clinics, he said.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Perez was forced to scale back operations. Eventually, he had to lay off about five people. During the rioting sparked by the death of Floyd, looters stole equipment and computers from his office. It was the most difficult time in his 13 years of owning the business, he said.
"But I always had faith and belief we would be OK," Perez said.
Perez also received a grant from the Lake Street Council and also more than $50,000 in a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to maintain operations. With the funding, Premier Health was able to bring back its workers and purchase new equipment. Compared with the same period in 2020, patient visits are up 50%, Perez said.
Born and raised in Mexico, Perez feels a connection with his patients. In his office, which also offers consulting for healthy nutrition and wellness, the patients feel at home and understood, he said.
Not long after the clinic was damaged during unrest, Perez opened the doors of his clinic to serve the community.
"When people are in pain and they need help, you cannot give yourself the luxury of closing for an extended period of time," Perez said. "We did what we could with what we had."
Ibrahim, a public health nurse of more than five years, opened her mental health services clinic at 115 E. Lake St. in December 2018. It primarily serves refugees, immigrants, communities of color, and youth and seniors, mostly Somali Americans. She became interested in mental health counseling after noticing how trauma affected her patients' overall health.
"I have a connection to Lake Street," Ibrahim said. "When I wanted to start this wellness clinic, I wanted to do it in an area I felt needed mental health services and wellness services the most. That's why I initially picked that area of Lake Street."
Healing Path is using its funding to not only rebuild, but hire more staff and expand telehealth, education and wellness programs. Ibrahim, who is Somali American, anticipates there will be demand for the services.
While still in the early stages of the recovery and reopening of their respective businesses, Perez and Ibrahim have concerns their offices could sustain damage, or be burglarized, again, if unrest were to erupt following a decision in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing Floyd. The case is expected to go to the jury this week.
"It's scary, but we're hoping for peace," Ibrahim said.
Nick Williams • 612-673-4021