Minneapolis homeless encampment raising health and safety concerns

Dozens of tents are crammed into a patch of grass
Dozens of tents are crammed into a patch of grass near East Franklin and Hiawatha avenues in south Minneapolis on Wednesday.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

By some estimates, the encampment near East Franklin and Hiawatha avenues in Minneapolis is now home to more than 300 people who've put up tents and makeshift structures.

The Minneapolis City Council's Housing Policy and Development Committee is directing staff to come up with a plan for emergency temporary housing for the people living there.

The committee is referring to the emergency shelters it has in mind as "Navigation Centers," and members want a plan by Sept. 20. Several people living in the camp addressed the committee, telling stories of housing hardship and pleading for help. Council Member Alondra Cano said the city needs to accommodate the campers, many of whom are Native Americans.

Twenty-one-year-old Darius Walksout.
Darius Walksout, 21, stands outside of a tent at the encampment. Walksout was friends with a woman who was found unresponsive at the camp and later died at the hospital.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

"We are on Native land. We are on your land. And we need to make a decision that you are supporting and that you are advocating for," Cano said.

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Campers say, among other things, that they need more medical assistance. Last week a young woman suffered an apparent asthma attack at the encampment and died after being rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Council Member Lisa Goodman said the city has a responsibility to provide assistance and she scolded Hennepin County for not doing more.

"We should hold our colleagues at other levels of government accountable for stepping up because we will not be able to pay for this ourselves. This is an emergency and there needs to be a very broad-based response to it," Goodman said.

The committee also directed staff to begin looking into a culturally focused transitional housing facility for chronically homeless American Indians.