Cold weather fuels efforts to help unsheltered Minnesotans

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Monday’s snow, piled up, on the roofs of tents, and other makeshift shelters—-at a homeless encampment in Minneapolis, along the light rail tracks near the Cedar-Riverside station.

The camp near Seventh Street south has grown in size, after a nearby homeless encampment was cleared by government officials in recent weeks.

In Hennepin County, there’s a new effort underway to help those who are unsheltered with a member of the ‘Street to Housing’ team.

“We’re all actively working to reduce the numbers outside—urgently and move people into housing,” said Danielle Werder, with Hennepin County’s Office to End Homelessness. “Each person who is experiencing unsheltered homelessness has their own unique situation.”

The new team launched a few months ago, where workers are out going to encampments, or other places the unsheltered are staying, to try and connect them to housing resources for emergency shelter and permanent housing.

“We believe that everyone needs dignified shelter, and dignified housing, and it’s not ok or safe, or appropriate for people to be outside–which is why we are trying to address the situation,” Werder said.

Since their launch, the team’s helped more than 230 people, or families, according to Hennepin County officials.

The team spent Monday, trying to find 45 people on the streets, who have recently been granted housing referrals, to let them know their long-term shelter was now available. The Minneapolis City Council will discuss Tuesday afternoon, a request by a couple of council members to have a nonpartisan group review the city’s practices for carrying out forced homeless encampment closures or removals.

“This is going to be a long-term process changing Minneapolis’s approach to homelessness and homeless encampments,” said Aisha Chughtai, Ward 10, Minneapolis City Council member. “The city of Minneapolis needs a more humane approach.”

Chughtai said she’s been concerned with how some camps are cleared by the city, as some people have lost important possessions, and how the clearing of one camp just creates another camp nearby.

“It’s exacerbates the problem and it certainly is not solving the crisis in any way,” Council member Chughtai said.

City Hall shared with 5 EYEWITNESS News their decision-making when it comes to closing an encampment that is “focused on ensuring the health and safety of the unsheltered individuals and community at large.”