A week after Minneapolis officials dismantled a large homeless site at Powderhorn Park, officials cleared another encampment on the city’s South Side on Wednesday.
As police looked on, residents broke down their tents and crisscrossed the encampment on a city-owned lot at E. 26th Street, between S. 15th and 14th avenues, with pushcarts piled high with clothes, pillows and other belongings. A group of social service providers and volunteers were also on the scene to provide assistance. City workers hung back for a while, before moving in to clear trash with a small front-loader.
It was the latest encampment to be cleared since an executive order passed by Gov. Tim Walz for the coronavirus pandemic. Days after the Park Board issued an eviction notice, workers joined park police officers to clear out one of the two tent camps at Powderhorn Park, which became a haven for people displaced in the aftermath of the George Floyd riots, but also picked up a reputation for trouble. About 20 people were arrested during the operation, which some critics called unnecessarily heavy-handed.
Some of those helping said that Wednesday’s operation appeared a bit smoother. However, Angel Beaumaster said that camp residents were promised a bus to help in the move, but one never showed up.
“These people want to work, they’re willing to work,” said Beaumaster. “Maybe they’re not 9-to-5ers, but they’re good workers.”
What started as a handful of tents at the site grew to as many as 50 in a matter of weeks, said Linda Julik, adding that its residents lived with the constant uncertainty that the encampment could be dismantled at any time.
“Every time they displace them, mentally it knocks them down another degree,” said Julik, who along with her fiancé does community outreach work in the surrounding neighborhoods. “And you wonder why they stay in their [drug] addiction.”
A few minutes earlier, a fire crew showed up after being called about a possible overdose.
An MPD spokesman said that on Wednesday the dispersal order was given by the city’s Community Planning & Economic Development department.
In announcing the move, officials said in a statement that their goal was “for all people to gain access to permanent housing that is safe, stable and something that they can afford over the long term,” pointing out that a planned “new, culturally specialized” shelter was set to open this fall.
The statement said that the city had avoided moving other encampments on its property since the pandemic started, but that in “this particular instance, the size, public health and safety concerns had reached a level where the encampment posed a serious risk to both encampment residents and surrounding neighbors.”
“Encampment residents were given a week’s notice that they would have to move,” the statement read. “The city worked with outreach teams to try to identify housing and shelter options for as many people as possible, and to offer transportation to encampment residents.”
One resident who agreed to speak about his experience if his name was not revealed, said he had “mixed feelings” about the move.
The 25-year-old man, whose nickname is “Urkel,” said he understood the need to address coronavirus-related health hazards, but he added that the encampment had been “kind of like a refuge for a lot of people” with nowhere else to turn.
Officials said in their statement that the city had spent more than $70 million on affordable housing over the past two years. Earlier this week, government leaders announced plans for developing three new shelters, each targeting particularly vulnerable populations.
Earlier this month, the Park Board voted to limit the homeless tent camps that have sprung up across the city’s parks, creating 20 designated sites where future encampments will be permitted. Under the resolution, no encampment can have more than 25 tents, and advocates and nonprofit organizations will have to apply for a temporary permit to legalize an encampment; those without permits would be disbanded.