Minneapolis city council delays vote on site to relocate homeless encampment

Mayor Frey says he has found a site

Sloane Martin
September 21, 2018 - 1:01 pm

A decision on relocating dozens of people at the homeless encampment at Hiawatha and Cedar Avenues was expected to come Friday, kickstarting the effort to get the site off the ground before the cold weather sets in. Instead, the Minneapolis City Council votes to postpone selecting a location to Wednesday.

There's wide consensus that there is no perfect option. Council members voted unanimously to look at every possible location over the next several days, talk to constituents and gather information before agreeing on a site for what they call a "navigation center."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey later Friday said he has found a new site for a homeless encampment.

The Star Tribune reports that Frey is suggesting that residents living along Hiawatha Avenue be relocated to a 1.5-acre property on Cedar Avenue owned by the Red Lake Nation. It's the former home of Amble's Machinery and Hardware.

Frey says the site is supported by 10 American Indian tribes.

Jeremiah Ellison introduced the amendment to delay the vote, saying Thursday's 7-5 vote from the Committee of the Whole preferring the proposed site at 2600 Minnehaha was rushed.

"Nobody is advocating for magic," he said. "I do think that this amount of time is literally more than a day."

Frey said there were three overdoses in one day Thursday and action is urgently needed.

"The notion that we'll suddenly find the perfect site within the next week or week and a half is unlikely," he said. "I strongly encourage us to move forward."

City officials say they're trying to take a compassionate approach to addressing the issues of poverty and drug addiction at the camp, while solidifying a long-term plan for stable, warm and dignified housing. City staffers have identified two spots: one at 2600 Minnehaha, and the other a parking lot at the former Roof Depot warehouse, but both have their problems.

The latter is significantly more expensive due to legal restrictions and pollution concerns. The former is opposed by families at two nearby charter schools who packed the council chambers with signs.

Ana Soria, a parent and administrative assistant at Aurora Charter School, says there's a small bit of relief for the school community who worry children will be exposed to the realities of the camp.

"For us, it is a little bit of a gleam of hope for the reason that, we feel that maybe now our presence is being taken into consideration for our children" she said. "That is the main reason that we are here today: we don't want the voice of our children to be silenced."

Two staffers who spoke at the meeting said they're up against time, location and budget in finding a solution before the cold weather sets in. It could take up to two months to prepare a site.

The meeting is Wednesday Sept. 26 at 2:30.