MPRB clears remaining tents at Powderhorn Park encampment
Friday, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) announced it had cleared the Powderhorn Park encampment after two weeks of outreach and notices to transition were handed out.
MPRB stated it had cleared out the remaining 35 tents at the park.
In July, MPRB said the encampment included about 560 tents.
Earlier this week, MPRB stated it had cleared encampments at Elliott Park and Kenwood Park due to ongoing safety concerns and Kenwood’s location in a safe school zone.
MPRB stated staff members are continuing work to implement the resolution directing them to reduce the number of parks with temporary encampments to no more than 20, limit the number of tents per encampment to 25, and require an encampment permit for each site. Additionally, the resolution allows the board’s superintendent to close encampments when there is a documented threat to health and safety.
"Park staff have been spending significant time and resources to address the influx of hundreds of unhoused people who have been living in temporary park encampments since this spring," Superintendent Al Bangoura said in a statement. "We need safe parks for everyone and having encampments in parks creates unsafe conditions for many of those living in the parks, those visiting the parks, and those living near the parks."
A crowd watched on as tents and belongings were removed from Powderhorn Park on Friday morning.
Patrick Berry told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he was asleep down the hill near the baseball diamond.
“I was told immediately that there was an eviction happening that day,” he said. “What it feels like is terrifying and really scary.”
He has lived at Powerhorn Park off and on for about a month and a half.
Berry said notices from the city have been inconsistent and unclear.
“I was told it would be happening at a later date so it was really a sneak attack,” he said.
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board spokesperson Dawn Sommers said, however, that Park Board and Hennepin County staff have been there for about two weeks.
“Offering transportation and encouraging them to move and telling them the park has to close,” she said. “There have been significant crime incidents in the park as well as the park is in a safe school zone so people cannot stay.”
Since July 15, Parks Police have documented at least a dozen incidents including rape, assaults and an overdose.
“Homeless people have been getting raped and assaulted and attacked in Minneapolis and no one seemed to care about it until we were in people’s faces in encampments,” said Berry. “There’s crime that’s always occurring in Minneapolis, to pin that specifically on an encampment seems crazy.”
People who live nearby have shared concerns about crime and the growing tension.
At last week’s Park Board meeting, several Board members voiced their concerns about the encampment.
Board Vice President LaTrisha Vetaw called for the removal of the camp at the July 5 meeting, saying, “People are afraid not only for their lives but their health… we need to address it, and the only way to address is to do what this board voted to do.”
Chris Thompson, who lives blocks away, went to the park on Friday morning during the removal.
“I’m glad it was done, it probably needed to be done sooner,” he said. “I felt like it just kept ratcheting up. It was a hard situation for everybody, I don’t desire to stick people to the side but yet this is not sustainable.”
He told us he’s been able to talk to some of the individuals who lived at the encampment and hopes that the community can come together to develop housing solutions.
“I think the vast majority of residents do want just a place that’s safe,” he said. “I would love to have groups come together with community input but also those that have worked in these different environments, who have lived there for a long time, to talk together and come up with viable solutions.”
The Park and Recreation Board brought in buses to help transport people from the Powederhorn encampment. Sommers said some of those individual went to BF Nelson, one of 16 options the Board has identified.
The city has approved four permits so far for Lake Harriet, Marshall Terrace, Bde Maka Ska/William Berry and The Mall parks.
They’ve also designated another 12 sites that could work, including Boom Island, Riverside, Annie Young, BF Nelson, Franklin Steele, Minnehaha Falls, Lyndale Farmstead, MLK, Bryn Mawr, Beltrami, Logan and Lake Nokomis parks.
Sommers told 5 EYEWINTESS NEWS those sites were selected because they already had a number of tents and fall under the resolution’s requirements, including distance from a school.
Tensions flared between protestors and police following the removal of the encampment.
Sommers confirmed Parks Police used mace to disperse the protestors, after she said some grabbed at police equipment and reached into squad vehicles.
Earlier during the removal, two people were arrested. Sommers said both crossed the police line, one of those individuals also damaged property and obstructed the legal process.
Berry was critical of the officers’ actions, which he said harmed an already traumatized population.
Berry told us he first experienced homelessness at age 17.
“That was the first time in my life where I became invisible,” he said. “People ‘other’ you, they don’t see you on the street.”
Berry told us, “I’ve had ups in my life, I’ve worked office jobs- obviously I’m articulate. I have some college education under my belt but I’ve had a lot of trauma and I deal with mental illness, sometimes my mental illness does better at times than others.”
He recently lost both of his parents. Berry said assistance is needed for those who are experiencing homelessness.
“Help people with housing, first month’s rent, that sort of thing,” he said. “Some of those programs already exist but based on the restrictions on those programs, it can be difficult to get into the first place.”
Berry explained what he calls a systemic failure.
“You need to have a safe space to wake up in the morning to have a stable job but you need a stable job to have a safe place to wake up in the morning,” he said. “So you’re stuck in a catch-22.”
He hopes more housing options can be developed.
“And not just a shelter but something where people can have a lock and go into a private space of their own and have some sort of personal autonomy in their life, without control or someone dictating to them how they have to live or be just to have a little safe space,” said Berry.