Organizations Say Minneapolis Encampment Highlights Child, Young Adult Homelessness

September 21, 2018 11:54 AM

Organizations say the growing encampment in south Minneapolis is helping raise awareness about the problem of homelessness. But at the same time, it's also putting a vulnerable group at risk.

"It's a very, very dangerous place for them," Heather Huseby, executive director of Youthlink in Minneapolis said.

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Huseby said the camp has gathered a concentration of homeless children and young adults, the segment of the population that Youthlink targets to serve. Huseby said drug use and other negative forces are making Youthlink's outreach efforts at the camp urgent.  

"One of the youth we know who went there ended up not surviving. We have to stop that," she said.

RELATED: 2nd Death at Minneapolis Homeless Encampment Under Investigation 

"The amount of little kids we have in there is growing," Jose Acuña said, who leads Youthlink's outreach efforts to prevent the young and homeless from being exploited.

"When you see someone who is vulnerable, people are going to take advantage of that and that's what we are trying to avoid. We are trying to build relationships and bring the youth to the services," he said.

While the Minneapolis encampment is getting a lot of attention, the problem of homelessness is not new and by no means is it limited to St. Paul.

"It's kind of gut-wrenching to watch," Luca Groppoli, with Frontier Fellowship Church in St. Paul, said.

Frontier Fellowship also does outreach into the homeless community, offering basic supplies and helping people find employment and housing. Groppoli said St. Paul is seeing a rise in homeless youth needing services. Groppoli  added the city also has lesser-known tent city locations tucked away in Minnesota's capital city.

"It's like a new generation of homelessness that is inundating the system," she said. "Hopefully they'll let us connect them to the places they need connected to."

RELATED: City of Minneapolis Has Plan for Homeless Encampment

While residents may feel compelled to personally visit one of the camps to offer supplies or other help, leaders from these organizations say it's better residents direct the support to groups that work to help the homeless year round.

"Organizations need the support to continue offering the services, which are long-term services," Acuña said. "It's not a quick cure."

Minneapolis city leaders say they are working on a plan to relocate the people living in the Minneapolis camp to emergency shelters by early October.

Learn more about how to help those in the encampment here. 
 

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Ben Rodgers

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