$1.5M approved to help homeless at Minneapolis encampment

“We’re sort of approving this money without anything to approve it for makes me sort of nervous.”

Edgar Linares
October 19, 2018 - 4:27 pm

By Edgar Linares

Categories: 

The Minneapolis City Council has taken another major step in getting hundreds of homeless people out of tents and into shelters. 

The Council approved $1.5 million in funding for a temporary Navigation Center being built on 1.25 acres of land owned by the Red Lake Nation and the city. Construction crews are in the process of demolishing buildings and preparing the property for the shelter, located at 2109 Cedar Avenue South. 

Minneapolis housing officials have been working with tribal, community and government partners for several weeks to help more than 300 homeless people living in tents along a sound wall on the east side of Highway 55. The Navigation Center will provide safety and services for those living at the encampment. 

Before approval of the funding, Council President Lisa Bender expressed concern over plans to build temporary structures to be used for shelter.

“As of yesterday the structures that staff had indicated to us many times in council meetings that they intended to purchase have fallen through,” said Bender. “So, there is not currently a specific structure type identified.” 

They also said they have yet to find someone to operate the Navigation Center. Bender said there are five shelter operators in the city. 

“With all that said I still have concerns with appropriating money for something that we don’t know what it is, or that we’re going to buy without an operator identified,” said Bender. “But I also know we are on a very tight timeline and if we delay this vote it will add another two weeks.”

The city hopes to open the center in early December and continue operations through May. Council member Jeremiah Ellison says they’re feeling pressure to move quickly.

"I get that we kind of need to keep the ball rolling, but this inability to understand when it’s appropriate to take a pause I think has gotten us into a corner where I don’t know if we’re necessarily creating the best solution for the folks at the encampment,” said Ellison. 

Council President Lisa Bender said it’s clear they’re taking a risk, but said she feels confident moving forward with the city's community partners.

“The fact that we have a number of community-led and Native-led organizations that are at the table gives me great comfort,” said Bender. 

More details on the Navigation Center are expected at the City Council’s Housing Policy and Development Committee on Wednesday, October 24.