A fourth location for a homeless encampment – as some city leaders look for housing solutions

Homeless encampment moves to 4th location

A new homeless encampment, known as Camp Nenookaasi, appeared along East 28th Street in South Minneapolis Friday.

“I get a text at work today from another neighbor who says oh, you’ve got new neighbors and sends me a picture and I’m like what?” exclaimed Rand, who lives nearby.  

He says he’s lived in the South Minneapolis neighborhood since 1991 — and has concerns.

“There’s safety issues, there’s health issues, there’s issues related to their long-term best interest,” Rand says. “There’s already three or four suspicious vehicles that I’ve seen just walking over there.”

This is the fourth location for the encampment in the last month.

Three others have been cleared by the city because of health and safety issues, including 911 calls for property damage, theft, and concern about campfires.

City leaders say there was a shooting Monday that sent a 29-year-old man to the hospital, although he is expected to survive.

Last week, the Department of Health said it had to respond to an outbreak of a stomach virus.  

“It’s very clear this merry-go-round isn’t doing anything to solve the issue right now,” declares 9th Ward Council Member Jason Chavez. “You see Encampment Nenookaasi that’s moving from block to block, eviction to eviction — and it’s not leading to getting people housed permanently.”

Chavez and other members are proposing the city consider the idea of ‘round the clock secured, supervised outdoor spaces, like those being used in Denver, Colorado.

“What they have is a regulated location where they can have an encampment,” Chavez says. A safe outdoor space where they can have security. Public health measures to actually make the situation better, rather than making it worse.”

Another idea is to try getting more funding for a second Avivo Village.

The current facility in Minneapolis houses about one hundred people — each with their own secured tiny home inside a heated warehouse building.

Mental Health and other services are available.

An Avivo spokesperson says the facility is now full.

She says the group is willing to have conversations with the city to discuss taking in twenty more people as overflow — but would need additional funding to pay for more staff.

“People have a little home they can live inside of, with a key,” Chavez says. “With help finding jobs, help with your addiction, with your mental health.”

A third idea would be to establish what the council member and two of his colleagues call a ‘humane encampment response ordinance.’

“More of a public health approach, with housing provisions at the center of encampment response,” Chavez notes. “Rather than a regulator approach that just bounces people around the city without producing solutions.”

On Friday — encampment organizers pushed back against the clearing of the camp’s previous location, at East 22nd Street and 16th Avenue, South.

“We need to start holding the city accountable for these evictions,” said spokesperson Nicole Mason. “Where are the people supposed to go? Outreach was not notified about these evictions.”

Mason says there was no advance notice of the eviction Tuesday and residents say they were startled by the early morning police perimeter.    

Mason says more options are needed for safe, stable housing and for healing spaces.

“These are people,” she declared. “Support the healing center, support this cultural-based healing center for the people.”

When asked about a long-term strategy for dealing with the homelessness issue, a city spokesperson issued a statement:

“The City’s Homeless Response Team continues to connect our unsheltered community members with available services from Hennepin County and other community partners. These resources include shelter, housing, mental health, and addiction services. We continue to prioritize the health and safety of those living in encampments and surrounding neighborhoods.”

Rand says because of what’s happened some of his neighbors are mulling over the idea of moving elsewhere.

But Jasper Becker, who works at a school down the street from the new encampment, says there are plenty of vacant buildings in Minneapolis — and that one of them could be used to shelter people who are now in the camp.

“Some dignified housing is what we need,” she says. “I would say the answer for both housed and unhoused neighbors is to give them a space to be in, and it would make everybody feel safer and everybody feel calmer.”