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Minneapolis backs lot next to schools for homeless camp relocation; council is skeptical

September 21, 2018

Minneapolis officials are recommending the relocation of a homeless encampment to a vacant lot, despite the opposition of two nearby charter schools. But its only the first step in an already contentious decision on where to house dozens of people, many of them with substance abuse and mental health problems.

David Frank, the citys community planning and economic development director, told City Council members Thursday that they are recommending the site at 2600 Minnehaha Av. as a temporary home for the Hiawatha encampment residents.

This is an emergency situation, Frank said.

Frank said they will start placing trailers and operating the site within one to two months. The trailers will have bathroom and showers. The city will spend up to $2.5 million constructing and operating the temporary housing for a year, though that doesnt include providing social services.

But several council members have raised concerns about the sites proximity to the schools. School leaders also said they were concerned for the safety of their students, who might be exposed to drug activity and crime.

Please dont relocate this next to the school, Council Member Alondra Cano said.

Im very much troubled the 2600 Minnehaha site because of the children, Council Member Abdi Warsame said.

Directors of American Indian nonprofit groups, along with several council members, favor the other site under consideration: a city-owned parking lot next to the former Roof Depot warehouse.

Mayor Jacob Frey has indicated his desire to set up temporary shelters for the homeless people by early October. The provisional shelters could provide social services and additional addiction treatment for vulnerable people at the rapidly growing homeless encampment in south Minneapolis, Frey said.

American Indian agencies and Twin Cities nonprofits have intensified their calls for swift action on health risks in the wake of recent two deaths at the camp.

In a letter to Frey on Sept. 5, Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors encouraged the mayor to move the homeless people to parking lot of the former Roof Depot on E. 28th Street, which is owned by the city.

The use of the Roof Depot property would be temporary, the letter said. Our goal is to buy sufficient time to devise and implement the multi-layered approach needed to address the array of needs presented by the residents of the camp.

But that property has residual pollution and legal restrictions on its use that make it less desirable than the 2600 Minnehaha site, according to city officials.

Mukhtar M. Ibrahim 612-673-4689 Twitter: @mukhtaryare

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