September 12, 2018 06:01 AM
The number of people living at a south Minneapolis homeless camp has grown in size with more health risks.
Organizers say there are more than 300 people who have made the camp home.
And more arrive everyday with tents or blankets near Franklin and Hiawatha Avenues. One of the tenants died over the weekend.
Twenty-six-year-old Alissa Skipintheday had a medical incident while at the campsite and died later at HCMC. Tuesday, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner released its findings on her cause and manner of death, "pending" further investigation.
Relatives said they believe they know one factor that may have contributed to her death: complications from an asthma attack. Skipintheday had received treatment at nearby medical clinics for chronic conditions including asthma and addiction.
She is the second person living at the camp known to have passed away since the settlement was created. A man was found unconscious in his tent in August. An autopsy ruled his death an overdose.
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"We have one of the highest rates of abuse disorders, overdoses, diabetes, asthma and hypertension," according to Dr. Antony Stately, the CEO of the nearby Native American Community Clinic.
Dr. Cari Rabi is a physician at the clinic and has treated many of the tenants for various ailments.
"Living outdoors in an urban environment among a concentration of people, you start to become more prone to infectious diseases. Sanitation is an issue [as well]. You're right next to a highway and exposed to exhaust fumes, allergens, exposure to heat, wet and cold, anything in the environment can exacerbate asthma," Dr. Rabi said.
"All of these things that are chronic conditions become more complex when you don't have a stable environment," Dr. Stately said.
And without stable housing, the challenges the tenants face mount.
"It's very difficult for them to prioritize healthcare when they have a lot of things in the moment that feel more pressing than to get asthma or diabetes medications," according to Dr. Rabi.
In the immediate area near the settlement, there are three health clinics where help is available. However, at the Native American Community Clinic, doctors said they often hear why some folks are hesitant to leave the camp and their tent in particular, to get medical care.
"Everything that is near and dear to them in their life is in that tent and if you had to leave and go get critical health care, would you want to do it knowing you would risk the likelihood that somebody would take your things?" Dr. Stately said.
That's part of the challenge facing a coalition of medical professionals, activists, city leaders and homeless experts who are determined to find a way to bring support to the tenants, where they are at.
As for Alissa Skipintheday, her funeral will be held Thursday morning at the community center on the Mille Lacs Reservation.
Updated: September 12, 2018 06:01 AM
Created: September 11, 2018 10:45 PM
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