September 21, 2018 06:42 PM
Minneapolis City Council members on Friday elected to delay choosing a site at which to relocate people currently living in a homeless encampment near Hiawatha and Franklin avenues.
"Yesterday alone there were three overdoses at the camp. I do not believe delaying is an option,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, as he urged city council members to choose a location.
Frey said no location will ever be “perfect” but the city should take action immediately.
Despite that plea from Frey to move forward, the council voted to delay a decision until next Wednesday, saying more time is needed to look at other possible locations.
City staff had recommended a property on the 2600 block of Minnehaha Avenue. Representatives from Aurora Charter School packed the Friday meeting to voice concerns about the camp being moved to that city-owned lot next door to the school. Some council members shared their agreement.
“This is truly not a viable option when we think about the long-term consequences of putting two venerable communities next to each other,” council member Phillipe Cunningham, who represents Ward 4, said.
Any location chosen would include trailers that would be posted on each site housing 156 people, along with a navigation center. The center would have showers and bathrooms and give people directions to health and chemical dependency programs, along with information on housing.
"Five days is a long time especially when you are out at the camp,” Margarita Ortega, who described herself as a representative from the camp, said. “I've been there every day and especially with the weather getting colder it's very hard on the families and the children."
Ortega said most people at the camp want the city to select the Roof Depot location, which is land the city bought in 2016 with plans to build a water facility. However, many city leaders have publicly said they don’t support putting the homeless center there because of cost.
“We are prioritizing money over people, again,” Ortega said. She said people at the camp won’t want to relocate too far from where they are now.
“It’s not going to happen, they won’t move there and it’s only because they are comfortable," Ortega said. "Our Native American resources and social services are all there along Franklin Avenue.”
"I just feel like there are more dignified options in order to place people who are experiencing homelessness at the encampment,” council member Jeremiah Ellison, who represents Ward 5, said.
At the meeting, some city staffers asked for more direction from council members, alluding to the fact they believe they may have already exhausted all viable options.
"I'm not exactly sure what you expect us to do between now and next week,” Minneapolis Director of Economic Policy and Development David Frank said.
Late Friday, Frey said after a meeting with tribal leaders he also identified another property to consider, although a building would need to be demolished being first, meaning it would likely take longer than other options.
Frey’s office said the 1.5-acre property on Cedar Avenue is owned by Red Lake Nation and is the former home of Amble’s Machinery and Hardware.
Council members will now meet to consider a location Wednesday.
Updated: September 21, 2018 06:42 PM
Created: September 21, 2018 10:51 AM
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