Minneapolis firm on plans to clear Camp Nenookaasi, despite pleas for eviction delay
Minneapolis officials plan to move forward with clearing a homeless encampment in the East Phillips neighborhood, despite calls from camp organizers to halt the closure.
Camp Nenookaasi started growing at 13th Avenue and 23rd Street back in August.
Organizers said 180 people are living at the camp as of this week, noting that it now includes sturdy shelters such as yurts, along with large army tents that house a kitchen and healing center for those battling addiction.
Supporters held a rally Thursday morning, saying the encampment has become a safe haven for the homeless at a time when many shelters are at or near capacity.
“We are unaware of any meaningful plans to house these folks,” said Christin Crabtree, one of the organizers of the camp. “If we’re talking to the city, they’ll point to the county. The county will point at the state. And then it’s a circle without anybody saying, ‘OK, the buck stops here. We’re going to do something.'”
A spokesperson for the city told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the decision to close the encampment is driven by ongoing public safety and public health issues.
Police reported being called to the area about 20 times over the last four months, including a deadly shooting on Tuesday that left 45-year-old Tyrone Mohr dead. His family and the camp’s organizer, Nicole Mason, say he lived at the camp.
Two men have been arrested in connection to his death — 37-year-old Dale Martin and 45-year-old Aurthur Garrett — however, it’s still unconfirmed if either of them had been staying at the camp.
The city said a baby was found dead at the encampment back in October as well.
Some neighbors also voiced frustration at the hazards the encampment has posed in the neighborhood.
“I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t do the things they do. But they come around here, trash all in your yard all the time. They’re on our porch doing drugs, you know. That’s not nice. Don’t nobody want that,” said Penny Gardener, who lives across the street.
Her husband, Michael Gardener, added, “We’ve got a bunch of kids in this neighborhood, walking around, stick with needles in their feet.”
Organizers of Camp Nenookaasi put out a list of demands to the city Thursday, which included:
- Pausing the eviction.
- Providing an acceptable/safe/resourced space for camp.
- Offering hotel rooms to the homeless.
- Providing an acceptable/dignified transitional housing space.
- Creating a navigation center for the homeless to connect with resources.
- Finding an apartment building for supportive/cultural appropriate housing.
- Creating a culturally based healing center for homeless people recovering from addiction.
The city provided this statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:
“The City of Minneapolis has posted a new notice at the encampment indicating a closure date of Dec. 19. The City will spend the extra five days working closely with partners to get dozens more community members into housing. The City takes this responsibility seriously and will continue working with Helix Health and Housing Services and Hennepin County to get people connected to services.”
A spokesperson also noted that homeless encampments are illegal in Minneapolis and they will focus on finding long-term housing solutions to help prevent homelessness.
The city is also working with the Mary Frey Opportunity Center to partner on offering day-of services to community members who may still be on site on Tuesday when the encampment closure begins.
“There are no easy answers,” Steve Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services, said about Camp Nenookaasi, just before the 39th annual Homeless Memorial March & Service.
Held in Minneapolis, the march honored 266 people connected to homelessness who died in the past year.
“It just lifts up the urgency of the work at hand,” Horsfield said about the impact of the march, adding: “[It] reminds us all that this is about human beings.”
Many marched for loved ones, with the night ending with a church service and community meal.
“This march is a really a time to reflect, not only on the lives that we’ve lost, but the personal action that we can each take,” said Rhonda Otteson, executive director for the Minnesota Homeless Coalition.