Minneapolis City Council member pushes back on new plans for regulating encampments

Minneapolis City Council member pushes back on new plans for regulating encampments

Minneapolis City Council member pushes back on new plans for regulating encampments

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first reported Monday that three Minneapolis City Council members were introducing separate ordinances this week that would essentially codify and regulate homeless encampments in the city.

Details are not available yet, but two of the three council members said part of their plan includes issuing conditional-use permits for the encampments.

City Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she does not support what she called the “legalization” of encampments and prefers a treatment-based solution first.

“Because this is an addiction issue. A really bad addiction issue,” she said. “When I went into the camp myself, that’s all I saw was addiction. People were sick and ill because of addiction.”

RELATED: Hearing on encampments descends into chaos as council member lashes out at colleagues, audience

Robert Lilligren, a leader with Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, told Vetaw in an email, “your comments are aligned with MUID leadership and the majority of the Native community. The encampments are not healthy or healing places. We believe there is a better way.”

Vetaw also shared a message she received from a nurse at a local hospital who treated people from the Camp Nenoosaaki encampment.

It read, in part, “It’s basically a drug zone and what people don’t know is it’s filled with child traffickers. I just took care of a 12-year-old that was being trafficked with three different STDs, and tested positive for meth, fentanyl, heroin, the works. She was 12.”

A housing specialist who assisted people in the camp to find permanent housing also wrote in an email, in part, “You (Vetaw) are absolutely correct. It is not a place of healing. It is a place of death and entrapment. Everything you witnessed on the day you went into the encampment is something I live with on a weekday basis. In fact, I am the one who found the dead baby in the duffel bag.”

On Jan. 30, Minneapolis Community Safety Commissioner Todd Barnette said there was a reported death of a newborn at the encampment and one overdose death, along with a fatal shooting and a stomach virus outbreak.

A spokesperson for the encampment issued the following statement:

“Although we are voices from Camp Nenookaasi, these ordinances are about the entire unsheltered population. Not everyone is going to agree and we expect and welcome different perspectives. The Native community is not a monolith. But what we are firm in understanding, is that, despite our differences, we all need to come together on this issue. It’s about our greater community. This impacts all of us. What the City has been doing for 5 years is NOT WORKING. We’re thankful for courageous council members who are taking a lead addressing a complex issue with creative solutions that work towards repair and not compounding harm and generational trauma. It’s time to prioritize healing.”

Camp Nenookaasi spokesperson