St. Paul prepares to close an encampment near the Mississippi

A woman holds a notice letter from the city of St. Paul.
Kaitlyn Joos said officials have ordered that she and other homeless people abandon their camps near the Mississippi River on the edge of downtown St. Paul.
Martin Moylan | MPR News

St. Paul officials have ordered 16 people camped near the Mississippi River to move by Thursday, one of approximately 120 homeless encampments cleared so far this year.

Ricardo Cervantes, St. Paul's director of safety and inspections, said the city tells people to move when they present health or safety risks to themselves or the public.

He said the homeless encampment at Lower Landing is one of the biggest in the city this year and several tents are dangerously close to Shepard Road. Conditions are also unhealthy, he said.

"There are human feces, urine," he said. "There has been use of chemicals. So, there are needles also within that location."

Cervantes said people living in encampments shut down by the city are referred to organizations that provide permanent housing or overnight shelter. But people at the Lower Landing encampment complained there are not enough places to accommodate them — at least not for free.

Diamond Ivory said she has had to move her tent nine times this year. She complained the city isn't doing enough to help people without housing.

"They really honestly don't care," she said. "They want us all to go away. They want us to disappear."

People at the Lower Landing encampment estimate more people live there than the city is saying — closer to two dozen instead of 16.

Cervantes said some organizations in the city are increasing their capacity to shelter the homeless.

"There's a consortium of nonprofit organizations that have a variety of different housing options, as well as the private market," he said. "The city of St. Paul has made a high priority of making sure that homeless individuals are connected with social services available through our partnerships."

He said Metro Transit's move in August to cut overnight service on the Green Line did not seem to increase homeless encampments.

"That's a different population,"Cervantes said. "Folks who are in the encampments have this desire to spend their time in an encampment, as opposed to on a bus or train."

Correction (Oct. 9, 2019): A previous version of this story misspelled Kaitlyn Joos’ name in the photo caption.

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