Minneapolis sets new date to close Camp Nenookaasi homeless encampment

After plans to clear a south Minneapolis homeless encampment were delayed multiple times this month, city leaders have set a new eviction date.

A spokesperson for the city says it now plans to close Camp Nenookaasi, located at 13th Avenue South and 23rd Street, on Jan. 4.

The encampment has been growing for nearly four months, with as many as 180 people living there earlier this month, according to organizers.

The city had planned to close the encampment on Dec. 14 and Dec. 19 but those were both postponed to continue efforts to find housing options for those living at the encampment. As of Friday, a city spokesperson said 104 people at the encampment had been connected with housing or shelter options, 31 of whom have already left the encampment for housing options, and 14 more are scheduled to move into housing “soon.”

It’s unclear how many others haven’t yet connected with staff and are still seeking housing options. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS inquired with the city but a city spokesperson only said that “everyone will have the ability to connect to shelter.”

Outreach efforts have been ongoing for weeks, with the city, county, community organizations and Helix Health and Housing Services — which received a one-year contract from the city worth nearly $1 million, to be paid from opioid settlement funds, starting this month — all working to help those at the encampment. Additionally, Minneapolis says Salvation Army and Rescue Now will add 90 more beds for those in need of shelter on Jan. 1 and 2, thanks to help from the county and state. Hennepin Shelter Hotline will connect people to those beds.

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According to a city spokesperson, Minneapolis is also working with partners to have extra resources and services available at the Mary Frey Opportunity Center on Jan. 4 when Camp Nenookaasi is closed.

While the city notes that encampments don’t provide safe housing, especially in winter, violent crime has also been a large factor in the push to close the encampment.

Some neighbors also voiced frustration at the hazards the encampment has posed in the neighborhood, and police reported being called to the area around 20 times in recent months, including for a deadly shooting earlier this month.

RELATED: Indigenous advocacy group calls on officials to close Camp Nenookaasi

Another factor is that the Indigenous Peoples Task Force (IPTF) has a redevelopment agreement with the city to build the Mikwanedun Audisookon Art and Wellness Center on the property. The city says IPTF is now planning to complete that purchase in February but will do predevelopment work ahead of time to make sure it can break ground shortly after the sale is complete. That new center will feature space for offices, a clinic, a commercial kitchen, community garden, small theater, art workshop and gallery, and areas to support neighborhood partnerships, entrepreneurship and employment training, the city says.