Number of tents increases at Minneapolis encampments, additional shelters set to open this month
A recent check of homeless encampments in Minneapolis revealed the number of tents has increased in the last few weeks.
In an update last week, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Al Bangoura said there are now 53 tents at three main sites in the city, which is an increase from 37 total tents reported on Nov. 18.
In terms of the breakdown, Bangoura said there are 19 tents at Minnehaha Park, 17 at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and 17 at The Mall.
In remarks to the board, Bangoura said the increase is creating concerns because of the "ongoing use of fires and propane at the encampments, which pose significant safety risks," and added park staff members have done almost daily outreach at the camps, including communication about fire- and weather-related hazards and have encouraged those in the encampments to move into shelters.
Bangoura said early last week that despite the availability of about 175 beds at nearby shelters, "residents at all three encampments declined the offers."
"It is extremely concerning that most offers over the last two months have been declined by those living in the parks," Bangoura stated.
Bangoura said park staff will continue working "to get unsheltered people living in parks inside," stating there are two additional shelters set to open by mid-December, including the 50-bed Strong Tower shelter and the 50-bed Homeward Bound shelter. The Indoor Villages project of 100 indoor tiny homes inside a warehouse is also set to open by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, in Ramsey County, a collaboration between the county, city of St. Paul and state is working to ensure shelter space for those experiencing homelessness this winter.
"We will have indoor bed space for them come January when funds and expansions are all in place," District 3 Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
The collaboration allows the county to continue a program that utilizes hotel space to house people.
Additionally, Ramsey County’s 18-month lease with M Health Fairview began last week and the plan for the Bethesda Hospital shelter would add 100 shelter beds, plus another 75 beds specifically for those experiencing COVID symptoms.