With new, heated tent, officials intensify effort to relocate residents of Hiawatha Avenue homeless camp
Minneapolis city officials and American Indian nonprofits are stepping up a campaign to encourage residents of a large homeless camp in south Minneapolis to seek shelter from the cold.
On Wednesday, Minneapolis Fire Department crews erected an expansive, heated army tent across the street from the encampment on Franklin and Hiawatha Avenues. The tent will serve as an impromptu dining hall and meeting space for the approximately 200 people still living at the camp, including some who have been sleeping in tents at the site since July.
The warming tent is part of a larger effort by local officials to persuade people to leave the encampment and move to a new, nearby emergency shelter by mid-December. Outreach workers with local nonprofits will be on hand to provide information about the new shelter and to correct some misconceptions circulating in the camp about how the shelter will operate and who it will accept.
This will get people out of their tents, and will give us an opportunity to talk to them about some better alternatives, said Stephanie Stuart, outreach navigator for the Minnesota Indian Womens Resource Center in Minneapolis, which provides support groups and treatment for women struggling with addiction.
With the onset of frigid weather, people living at the camp have been spending more time huddled in their tents or in warmer settings away from the camp, such as public libraries and light-rail cars, outreach workers say. Fewer of the dwellers are walking through the camp during the day or stopping by the large donations tent at the center of the camp. That has complicated efforts to reach camp inhabitants and to raise awareness about the new, temporary shelter being erected nearby on land owned by Red Lake Nation.
Time is running out. City, county and American Indian agencies plan to open the new temporary shelter consisting of three large, sprung tents housing up to 120 people by mid-December. They plan to close down the existing encampment after the new shelter opens, and after people have been given time to relocate there or to other locations, officials said.
Given the weather and other conditions at the site, it is not a safe place for people, said a spokeswoman for the city.
Chris Serres 612-673-4308 Twitter: @chrisserres