Neighbors work to support homeless, find housing solution as encampment pops up in Powderhorn Park
The donations for the homeless kept rolling in.
“Perfect, thank you!” called out a voice at a group of tables that had been set up.
“This is the Powderhorn Park, particularly the 10th Avenue neighbors, sharing their community,” says Sheila Delaney, a housing advocate. “And providing what we understand to be sanctuary.”
A homeless encampment sprang up just days ago in the park’s northeast corner. Between 20 and 30 homeless people moved there after they were evicted from a south Minneapolis hotel on Tuesday.
"The community is being very helpful,” says Junail Anderson, an encampment resident. “If the neighbors like us here and we're not doing anything, why does it matter to anyone else? We have to live around these people."
The people living there and neighborhood residents say they were surprised when Minneapolis Park Police officers arrived early Friday.
They passed out leaflets, telling those in the encampment they would have to leave soon.
"When the park board ordered they were to be evicted by Monday morning, my question truly was, 'Where are they supposed to go?'” said Julia Miller, who’s lived just across the street from the park for 10 years. “Evicting them from one camp to the hotel to another camp and just pushing them out farther and farther out to the margins.”
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board rescinded that order, promising to work on a solution with city and county officials.
Park and Recreation Superintendent Al Bangoura released a statement, which said in part, “Encampments represent a serious health and safety risk, particularly for those staying within the encampment, and do not represent a dignified form of shelter. I am committed to working with the community, local leaders and the Minnesota Interagency Council on homelessness on a solution."
For volunteers and homeless advocates, the situation raises the concern about finding permanent housing for the city’s homeless.
"This is absolutely temporary,” Delaney said. “There isn't one person, including the people sleeping here, that this was to be their long-term solution."
Anderson thinks area leaders should consider the idea of tiny homes.
The 100-square-foot heated shelters — about the size of an ice house — come with bathroom facilities and a sleeping area.
"You put us up in these hotels, or you put us up in these housing,” she said. “People do not want to live in these housing that you have.”
Meanwhile, the neighborhood has reached out, with donations of food, water, toiletries, blankets, and even fresh fruit.
“They got a lady over here charging people’s phones,” Anderson said. “A lady down here washing dishes. We got a lady doing some laundry that we wanted to do.”
As the donations continue, all the parties involved say they’re trying to work together.
"There have been conversations between the neighbors, and the residents, and the volunteers about keeping things safe, keeping things clean,” Miller said. “Maybe put a cap on the amount of folks allowed to camp at this particular spot, to maintain good relations.”
Neighborhood advocates say the area has a history of being community-minded and helping others.
“The folks who are staying at the park, who are living there deserve much better than that … folks deserve a safe place to live,” said Grace Berke with the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association. “Our community and the organizers at the park are doing the right thing. They are taking care of people.”
More than 300 residents have signed a petition, calling for city and county officials to support the encampment.
“We’re certainly still working on trying to find long term housing solutions for them that are safe, sustainable, and affordable,” Miller said.