Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and American Indian leaders plan to unveil an action plan Thursday for helping approximately 150 people living in a growing homeless encampment in south Minneapolis.
The plan is expected to include new measures to address the urgent health needs of the homeless tent dwellers, many of whom suffer from serious illnesses and drug addictions, as well as steps to provide them with longer-term housing assistance, officials said. The city has been coordinating with other agencies to provide portable toilets, hand-washing stations and overdose response kits to the swelling tent city at Hiawatha and Cedar Avenues, near the Little Earth housing project.
The encampment consists mostly of American Indians and has roughly doubled in size over the past two weeks to more than 60 tents, transforming a narrow stretch of state land into what is believed to be the largest and most visible homeless settlement ever seen in Minnesota.
Many of the tent dwellers say they have struggled to find affordable housing and feel safer living in a large group, watching over each other, than sleeping alone on the streets or in emergency shelters.
City and county health officials have been alarmed by the camps growing size and health risks, and have expressed concern that the line of tents may become a permanent feature of the city landscape, much like tent cities along the West Coast.
The encampment has several known cases of a drug-resistant infection from bacteria known as MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which can lead to sepsis, pneumonia, bloodstream infections and death. There are also reports of hepatitis C, sexually transmitted illnesses and scabies. Heroin and methamphetamine use is common at the site; homeless outreach groups have been distributing overdose response kits with clean needles and naloxone, a drug that can counter the effects of opioids.
Chris Serres 612-673-4308 Twitter: @chrisserres