Minneapolis’ Navigation Center letting homeless in, no questions asked

No drug or alcohol allowed, but intoxicated individuals won't be turned away.

Edgar Linares
December 13, 2018 - 6:40 pm

By Edgar Linares

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The $1.5 million Navigation Center in Minneapolis is nearing completion and people living in tents along Hiawatha and Franklin have already started moving in.

About 40 people are now living at the Minneapolis Navigation Center located at 2109 Cedar Avenue South. The 1.25-acre space has three large temporary structures wrapped in vinyl. The center will hold 120 people, and each day more are transitioning in from the encampment.

“It was positive,” said Marian Wright about the people moving in. “I was really worried that people were going to be a little traumatized by leaving where they’ve been living for the last six months or longer, but people were just happy to see a bed and have a warm space.”

Wright said some people broke into tears when they found out they could take a shower and learned of all the services they provide.

On Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota tribal leaders, who own the land where the temporary center sits, showed reporters the progress that’s been made in a short period. The Navigation Center was approved late September and funding for the center in October.

“We sat here two months ago and we came out with one of the most ambitious schedules to get the site cleared, to get through the permitting process and to get people ready for the move,” said Sam Strong, a leader with the Red Lake Nation. “This is like a six month project at a minimum.”

While others move into the center, some are planning to stay behind at the encampment. Mayor Frey said for those individuals time will run out.

“The homeless encampment at its present state is not a safe long-term or mid-term option at this point,” said Frey. “The transition has been facilitated by leaders of the respective tribes throughout Minnesota. It is going to be their leaders that are actually going to individual tents and saying this is not a safe option anymore.”

Sam Strong, with the Red Lake Nation said it’s important people and tribal leaders recognize that the encampment is not a safe place.

“Our commitment as tribes, not just Red Lake, but all the tribes who are present is to send our people out there and get them to move, to work with them on getting to move,” said Strong. “We don’t want to force people back on the streets; we want to get them into at least a shelter.”

The ultimate goal is to get the homeless people into stable housing. So far, the Red Lake Nation has worked with case managers and has placed 62 people in long-term housing, Hennepin County has placed 80, according to Strong.

As for drug or alcohol use, it won’t be allowed at the Navigation Center, but intoxicated individuals will not be turned away.

“Our intent with this is to get as many people safely indoors into a better environment as quickly as possible. And in doing that we are eliminating as many barriers as we can,” said Steve Horsfield Executive Director of Simpson Housing Services, whose overseeing operations of the Navigation Center. “We are operating a low-barrier, harm-reduction, service-rich environment.”

The center will offer chemical dependency programs and staff are equipped with NARCAN, in case of an overdose.

The Navigation Center will stay open through the spring. The Red Lake Nation plans to build permeant affordable housing on the land in the near future.

By Edgar Linares