As Minneapolis begins to clear encampment, residents start to build another — blocks away
City officials slowly started work Thursday to clear a large encampment in Minneapolis.
A day after a judge rejected a last-ditch effort to stop the city from evicting the residents of Camp Nenookaasi, city officials began slowly removing fencing around the encampment and some items from the site.
Many of the residents were seen moving just down the block and setting up a new encampment. Several residents also held a news conference Thursday morning about the eviction. Watch that in the video box below.
Camp Nenookaasi, located at the corner of 13th Avenue South and 23rd Street East, has been growing for nearly four months. It was also the site of a fatal shooting in December, where a man was shot in a tent. Another serious shooting happened the month prior.
Members of the encampment sued Mayor Jacob Frey on Tuesday in hopes of halting the planned eviction until all residents were guaranteed safe and stable housing. However, a judge declined to stop the city.
The city had planned to close the encampment on Dec. 14 and Dec. 19, but those dates were both postponed to continue efforts to find housing options for those living at the encampment.
As of Wednesday, a city spokesperson said 111 people at the encampment had been connected with housing or shelter options. Additionally, the city said the Salvation Army and Rescue Now have added 90 shelter beds.
Camp Nenookaasi’s organizer, Nicole Mason, admits that the encampment does have problems, but said more importantly, it’s a community where people can connect with housing services, health care and outreach workers.
The land where the encampment resides is the site where the Indigenous Peoples Task Force (IPTF) planned to build its Mikwanedun Audisookon Art and Wellness Center. That purchase agreement has been pushed to February amid the delays in clearing the encampment but IPTF will do predevelopment work to make sure it can break ground right after the sale is complete, the city says.
Advocates are pushing for the city to create a cultural healing center for the community living in the homeless encampment before an eviction.
“We know that a cultural healing center is something that would help permanently house our relatives and it’s going to help them heal and support them in ways they need to be supported right now,” Jason Chavez, Minneapolis City Council member, said.
In a statement, the city of Minneapolis said it has teamed up with state and local partners to offer housing and other services to people living in the encampment. Over 100 people have been helped so far.
The city said within the past four months, the encampment has been the site of shootings, drug use and a homicide — generating more than one hundred 911 calls.
A few blocks down from the current encampment, people are already starting a new chapter.
“It’s keeping people stable, safe and one place where they can, where they can clean themselves up,” an encampment volunteer said.
Volunteers explained the encampment on 26th Street and 13th Avenue is not the end goal, it’s a step toward stability.
“You have people that care, helping their brothers, sisters, siblings, family and get off the street and into long-term housing,” a volunteer said.
People who live near the new homeless encampment told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they have concerns about increased crime and drug use.
The Indigenous Peoples Task Force, which has plans to use the lot to build a wellness and arts facility, put out a statement saying it supports the closure of the encampment. It also says that it supports government leaders providing more resources to provide housing to people.
The statement, in part, reads:
As neighbors of the current camp, we have several concerns. As the aerial photos of the site show, the camp houses many people in a very small space next to our housing complex and other housing. We are aware of the over 100 police reports, including sexual assault, human trafficking, other violence and drug trafficking. We are concerned about the fires burning within feet of residential buildings, including buildings clad in cedar. We have had vandalism including our vehicle being drilled to access fuel. We also wish to uplift the voices of community residents who feel the stress day to day of living next to an encampment and all of the issues and predatory behaviors that come along with it. Their voices are seldom heard and we wish to support our residents as well as our community neighbors who are afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation.
We understand that the City is considering a resolution to regulate and provide services to camps for unsheltered homeless people on City property. We ask that in the course of developing any such policy that neighbors be consulted in a meaningful way and that guildelines are developed regarding safety and population density within any proposed camp and the surrounding neighborhood.
The full statement can be read on the Indigenous Peoples Task Force’s Facebook page.