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Housing advocates voice concern about tenant evictions, changes at Powderhorn Park encampment

KSTP
Updated: June 30, 2020 10:58 PM
Created: June 30, 2020 10:53 PM

Dozens of marchers rallied around Lake Street Tuesday to voice concerns about housing issues, both for renters, and those experiencing homelessness. 

"There's nowhere for these folks to go," says Jake Virden, a homeless advocate. "The housing system has completely failed across jurisdictions." 

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Under Governor Tim Walz's peacetime emergency, landlords have not been allowed to evict tenants who can't make their rent. 

His executive order 20-14 put a moratorium, or pause on evictions and notices to vacate, amid the pandemic.

But there's still an expectation that rent is to be paid. 

"There is nothing in the governor's order that would ever give a tenant permission to not pay rent," Assistant Attorney General Katherine Kelly told 5 Eyewitness News in March. "Landlords should not be taking advantage of tenants. Tenants shouldn't use this bit of chaos to take advantage of landlords who also have bills to pay." 

The peacetime emergency technically ends in mid-July. 

The governor has the right to extend it thirty days at a time, and he is generally expected to do that again.  

Nevertheless, some worry about the long term. 

"We need real systematic solutions," Virden says. "We need to build public housings. We need rent control, and immediately we need a ban on evictions." 

Another big issue is what should be done about the growing homeless encampment in Powderhorn Park.

Park board passes resolution to provide sanctuary to those experiencing homelessness in Minneapolis parks

The encampment population has grown from about thirty people to 400, in just a matter of weeks. 

"We need affordable housing," declares Kyle Wilson, who's been living in the encampment for about two weeks. "We need somewhere to go. Do you like seeing people in front of your yard? No, so help us make something of ourselves." 

But now, there's heightened concern the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will vote Wednesday on a resolution to limit encampments to ten parks, with ten tents in each park. 

Weeks ago, the board rescinded an eviction order, promising to work on a solution with city and country officials. 

At the time, 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." 

A MPRB spokesperson did not respond to questions about the resolution Tuesday.

A public comment period is expected before the vote. 

Advocates for the homeless say they have concerns about a lack of security and medical care at the encampment, and say they've sent dozens of emails to state and local officials. 

Group in Minneapolis rallies to protest evictions during COVID-19 pandemic

"We want to see people with resources," Virden says. "We want to see running water, we want to see electricity, want to see mental and physical health care. There are our neighbors." 

Many, like Junail Anderson, wonder what will happen to homeless people at Powderhorn, if the resolution is approved. 

"They just need a place to live, because when you cut to ten people, that's not right," she says. "People need housing, the right affordable housing. Affordable to us, not to you." 

Those living at the encampment say they don't want it to become a permanent solution, but add they want a chance at a better life. 

"There are some of us that have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 and other reasons, "Wilson says. "We're ready. If we can get into a house, we're ready to work, ready to make something of our lives. The only struggle we have is housing."
 


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