Minneapolis sets date to clear East Phillips homeless encampment; organizers plead for more time

Eviction date set for Minneapolis encampment

Eviction date set for Minneapolis encampment

The City of Minneapolis confirmed plans to evict a large homeless encampment in the East Phillips Neighborhood next Thursday.

City officials on Wednesday said the fenced-in homeless community, which come to be known as Camp Nenookaasi, is a safety and public health concern.

Supporters of the encampment refer to it, instead, as a safe haven and several speaking during public comment at the Minneapolis City Council meeting on Tuesday pleaded with officials not to clear it.

Camp organizer Nicole Mason, who’s been on the ground day and night since it popped up more than 3.5 months ago, said she’s asking for a delay in the eviction but knows the site was inherently temporary.

“It’s going to take away their connections with housing, with their outreach workers, with their mental health workers, with their health care,” Mason said. “It’s going to rip all of their resources away.”

About 180 people were living in the camp as of Wednesday, she said.

“We try to make it as safe as we can. Of course, a lot of our people are very respectful of the neighbors. They walk around picking up the trash,” Mason continued.

That’s a communal duty, like chopping wood and “hauling it back to our sacred fire,” Mason said.

The wood — which Mason says organizers have been paying for — also warms more than a dozen yurts on the property.

She says, with help from various outreach organizations, they’ve moved 74 people from the camp into permanent housing. That process can take months, she said, adding that she’s asked city leaders to give them until the end of January to clear the camp so it can help more people before they’re displaced.

City officials, in response, said they’ve done outreach too, alongside human service agency Helix. As a result, 40 people who lived in the encampment have been moved to more permanent housing and 52 more are scheduled to move out of the encampment by the end of next week, said Minneapolis Deputy Commissioner of Health Heidi Ritchie.

If that all works as planned, that would leave 130 people to be evicted.

The City’s Director of Regulatory Services Enrique Velazquez said waiting a month-and-a-half more to evict is “not an option,” because of community response, and because “there is a purchase agreement with the Indigenous Peoples Task Force.”

“They’re planning on acquiring this property. They have redevelopment work that needs to happen in advance of that purchase…so allowing the encampment to remain until January isn’t feasible if the Indigenous Peoples Taskforce is going to move forward with developing their site plans and then reactivating that space as quickly as possible.”

“We recognize that this is different, and it’s maybe a better encampment than we’ve seen in the past,” Ritchie said, using air quotes when she said “better encampment.”

“But it’s still really challenging…There are public safety issues,” she added.

Velazquez also acknowledges that some of the homeless response efforts in the camp “were working.” That will be taken into account as the city evaluates possible adjustments to its own homeless response, he said.