Minneapolis officials clear relocated Camp Nenookaasi encampment

Minneapolis officials clear relocated Camp Nenookaasi encampment

Next steps are unclear for a large south Minneapolis homeless encampment as residents, organizers and volunteers packed up to move out on Tuesday for the second time in four weeks.

The encampment, known as Camp Nenookaasi, was originally located at 13th Avenue South and 23rd Street East before police cleared the lot earlier this month. Residents then relocated about three blocks south to a second city-owned lot.

RELATED: As Minneapolis begins to clear encampment, residents start to build another — blocks away

City Operations Officer Margaret Anderson Kelliher, during a press conference hours after police set up a perimeter around the camp, said a trespass notice was posted weeks ago at the camp, but unlike last time, there was no advance notice of eviction, and residents in the camp said they were startled by the early morning police presence.

“We’re not trying to fight or anything like that. We’re not violent or anything. We just do what they say, and we’ll figure out another place to go once everybody gets organized to figure out what’s going on,” said camp resident Marshall Johnson.

It was a seemingly peaceful, but emotional morning, including during the city’s 11 a.m. press conference addressing the response. 

Anderson Kelliher — joined by Community Safety Commissioner Todd Barnette — was initially briefly interrupted by a man demanding to know the city’s plans for the unhoused people and their belongings.

The city leaders again cited health and safety concerns for clearing the camp, including a shooting just outside of the encampment on Monday that sent a 29-year-old man to the hospital, Barnette said, adding that the man’s injuries were not life-threatening.

Barnette, listing other calls for service, said, “Last October, like a lot of you reported, there was a newborn death at the encampment and also there was an individual who died from drug overdose. In December, a man was shot and killed. And last week, the Department of Health, their team had to respond to the outbreak of a stomach virus.”

RELATED: Minneapolis to clear second Camp Nenookaasi location following virus outbreak

Kelliher said the county has ample shelter beds, but almost all of that shelter space requires residents to not use alcohol or drugs.

Minneapolis transitional shelter Avivo Village is considered low barrier, meaning sobriety is not required.

Despite the open beds, many will choose to stay on the street.  

“If people would rather live outside than the safety nets we as a community, as a society, have created, then something’s wrong,” Caroline Hood, president and chief executive officer for RS EDEN.

Hood and her team in Minneapolis are substance abuse specialists who have shelter availability for those who need it. Still, many will never take the steps to receive the help available.

Hood says several factors led to that, but that shelter rules and the need to feel in control do not combine well for many – adding, the sense of “community” encampments create is another reason people choose to stay.

“All of us, RS EDEN, our government partners, our other community partners, we all have to come together to figure out, ‘okay, there’s a community need that’s not being met and we need to solve for that,’” Hood said.

A spokesperson said on Tuesday that it’s mostly filled, but with support from Hennepin County, they’ve got 30 temporary overflow spaces for the south Minneapolis encampment residents following eviction.

Both city leaders at the press conference acknowledged more needs to be done in response, including better addressing the opioid epidemic and ensuring availability of culturally specific healing services.

For now, the repeat evictions have become a particularly costly part of Minneapolis’ homeless response.

The cost of clearing both Camp Nenookaasi locations is “likely in the hundreds of thousands,” Anderson Kelliher responded when asked.

She said they’ll be making a full presentation about the response to this encampment to a Minneapolis City Council Committee tomorrow at members’ request. 

Camp organizers declined comment for this report.

RELATED: Minneapolis sets date to clear East Phillips homeless encampment; organizers plead for more time