Days before Super Bowl 52, Mall of America executive suggested sending homeless away with 'a Happy Meal'

February 05, 2019 09:22 AM

When Minnesota stepped into the spotlight of Super Bowl 52 last year, a Mall of America executive suggested shipping the homeless away with "a Happy Meal, a blanket, and some hand warmers," according to internal emails obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

The email, written by Vice President of Security Operations Doug Reynolds, was sent to a Metro Transit official in January 2018 in response to a scheduling change.

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Metro Transit decided to extend Blue Line service to Mall of America late into the night to accommodate visitors, according to the email exchanges. 

However, the hours also meant that the mall was the last stop of the night and took the city's homeless individuals who frequently ride the trains onto the mall's property at hours when the mall was not open.

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Frustrated by the decision, Reynolds responded by saying his, "initial response was to load all of the people that were left at MOA in to our vans and deliver them to the Metro Transit office building with a Happy Meal, a blanket, and some hand warmers."

"Mall of America is my team's house," Reynolds continued. "If that sounds dispassionate then I recommend your team shows how compassionate they are and set up tents, feeding stations and the like around your offices and take in people by the train load."

In a statement, Mall of America's Executive Vice president of Operations Richard Hoge said the comments were "disrespectful" and he personally "took offense to what was said." Hoge explained that the matter was addressed internally and he apologized to Metro Transit in a phone call.

 

John Humphrey, who oversees rail operations at Metro Transit, said the comments made by Reynold's were disappointing.

"The tone of the email was not what I would expect," Humphrey said. "I would always expect anybody, before they send an email like that, to think about it before they press send."

However, the email did not surprise Monica Nilsson, a longtime advocate for the homeless, who said she believes the mall doesn't want to be attached to the issue of homelessness.

"I can't help but think that people wouldn't make those comments if they were actually looking that person in the eye," Nilsson said "I'd like to see take a positive role, instead of dismissing it."

The mall said it has worked with local nonprofit organizations to combat the issues around homelessness for more than a decade, most recently entering partnerships with Oasis for Youth and The Link MN.

 

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Kirsten Swanson

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