Divide persists between Minneapolis City Council, mayor over short-term homeless response

Minneapolis looks for way forward after encampment moves to 5th location

Minneapolis looks for way forward after encampment moves to 5th location

The morning after fire wiped out the latest iteration of a large homeless encampment in South Minneapolis, displacing people living there for the fourth time this year, a few members of the Minneapolis City Council used the moment to call again for a change to the city’s homeless response, specifically through a few proposed ordinances 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first reported about last month.

“Encampments are not dignified housing. They are not a permanent solution for any. But the reality is that the status quo at every level is a failure,” said City Council Vice President Aisha Chughtai, joined by Ward 9 Council Member Jason Chavez and Ward 12 Council Member Aurin Chowdhury.

“The whack-a-mole we’re seeing from our mayor and his administration is not getting us any closer to a solution,” Chughtai added, speaking specifically to encampment evictions.

Chavez proposed a ‘safe outdoor spaces’ ordinance that would legalize small, temporary outdoor shelter spaces if passed.

“These would be run by nonprofits or community partners, and they will need to go through a city permitting process and have security and safety on site,” he explained.

There is at least one interested non-profit as of Friday: Minneapolis-based Twin Cities Recovery Project, Inc.

“We’ve been doing this work for a while,” said Christopher Burks, one of about a dozen people representing the organization at the press conference.

Responding later in the day, Mayor Jacob Frey said he wanted more details before weighing in on the proposed ordinance.

“Who’s going to be the provider that runs the encampment? What’s the security going to look like? Where’s it going to be? How are they going to get heat?” he elaborated.

Meanwhile, firewood was burning again on Friday at the camp’s new site.

Asked about safety concerns, camp organizer Christin Crabtree said they have to keep warm but have been working on mitigation.

“I was at Walmart last night late at night buying fire extinguishers. I was out there buying fire extinguishers days earlier,” she said. “We’re constantly doing everything we can to keep people as safe as possible with the resources we have. And unfortunately, the resources we have are not coming from the government.”

Frey, also responding to fire concerns said, “We got lucky that no one was seriously injured.”

Citing other ongoing public safety issues, including other 911 calls and deaths at the camp’s several sites over the past seven months, Frey stood by his administration’s call to clear the camps. The total cost has been at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I’m the one that gets the horrible news first when a little kid gets killed or a fire occurs. We’ve got to be able to respond,” he said. “And again, I would ask — and I’m open, again, as I said before, I’m open — but why not do those things inside?”