It has been more than two months since the tents started to appear on a grassy hillside alongside Hiawatha Avenue south of downtown Minneapolis. Just a few at first, the number grew to more than 40 tents and approximately 100 residents.
Concerned about the lack of the most basic necessities, Open Your Heart reached out to community agencies to offer our support. We provided funding to the American Indian Community Development Corporation to purchase and distribute food and hygiene supplies. As there was no running water or toilet facilities on site, we also offered to bring in portable units with sanitary stations.
Since then the encampment has increased significantly to well over 100 tents and 300 residents. The good news is that the community has rallied to offer both short and long term support. Yesterday (9/26/18), the Minneapolis City Council made the decision to accept and move forward with the Red Lake Nation’s very generous offer to construct temporary housing and a navigation center on land they own nearby on 21st and cedar.
The Tribal governments have really stepped up, even though they clearly have homeless issues on their reservations as well. They have shown steadfast leadership focused on providing a dignified solution. They have also been increasing their responses on reservations.
I recently visited the Red Lake Reservation to meet with Shelter Director Jordan May as Open Your Heart looks to renew our support for their critical work providing shelter and support to area homeless. We were proud to be an early funder of the Lyman Losh shelter on the Leech Lake Reservation and are encouraged to hear of preliminary plans to expand services in that community.
Homeless people sleeping in tents, garages, cars, under overpasses, etc., is hardly a new or rare phenomenon. We have been supporting street outreach teams supplying survival gear for many years. What is different now is the large camp and its visibility.
Encampments are located throughout the state where shelter is either unavailable or is considered a worse option than sleeping outside. As longtime supporters of addressing homelessness where people are most vulnerable and where the path to an end to a homeless life must begin – on the street and/or on shelters – we are encouraged that the conditions of unsheltered homeless is getting public attention and action.
We all know that while shelters and emergency stabilization centers are not the long term answer, they are an essential component in the continuum necessary to ensure that all can live a safe, comfortable, and supportive life regardless of circumstances. We will keep our readers and supporters informed of developments as they come and remind you that we have a dedicated fund directing 100% of donations to the relief effort at the camp. Keep checking our web site for updated information.
If you’d like to help, please make a donation by clicking on the “Donate Today!” tab and mention “Homeless Camp Fund” in the comments box. 100% will be spent on emergency supplies and equipment.