Minneapolis Mayor and Police Chief meet homeless families living in tents

“They must not understand that this is our only place to live. We don’t have a home or a place to go.”

Edgar Linares
August 08, 2018 - 6:16 pm

By Edgar Linares

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As Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo walked up the pathway near Hiawatha and Cedar Avenues, many started collecting their items and walking away, others stayed put and simply zipped up their tents. Those living there call the makeshift campground “the wall.” 

“I was born and raised from the projects right across the street,” said Tony Martin, 23. “I’m just out here to keep an eye on my mom, while she’s out here until she can find a stable home.” 

Tony’s mother, Angie Martin, 43, shares the tent with her son, nephew and nephew’s girlfriend. Angie has been homeless for eight years and said it’s especially tough during the cold Minnesota winters when she scrambles to find blankets and warm clothing. When she spoke to Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo she told them she really doesn’t have another place to go. This tent is her home. 

“Some people don’t like it,” said Angie. “They must not understand that this is our only place to live. We don’t have a home or a place to go.”

Last April, MPD implemented a new initiative and full-time officer to help the homeless and the vulnerable adult population find stable housing. This initiative creates alternatives to arresting and prosecuting people experiencing homelessness.

By Edgar Linares

Chief Arradondo says there’s a culture shift at MPD in the way officers interact with Minneapolis’ homeless population. He says years ago they labeled the group as “vagrants or transients”, to dehumanize them and become invisible. Now they’re a priority of the Chief and Mayor and are part of their weekly state of the city report.

“These are our neighbors,” said Chief Arradondo. “These are our brothers, sisters, uncles. They’re part of our community.”

MPD Sergeant Grant Snyder spearheads the new initiative. He is the first full-time officer working with Minneapolis' homeless population. He spends most of his days connecting people with critical resources and hands out meals, water and clothing from an ATV. He was asked where else he spends much of his time besides “the wall.”

“Pretty much all the corners of the city,” said Sgt. Snyder. “We also have individuals out there who are camped out on the banks of the river that are underneath bridges. This is a city-wide, and frankly a county-wide issue.”

Snyder has collaborated with Minneapolis nonprofit organizations to deepen relationships throughout the community and he says many families are seeing success. 

“We can’t allow anybody to become invisible in our city. These are people and they have names,” said Mayor Frey. “They’re our friends, they’re our families. Their stories deserve to be told. And we need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to make sure they can live with dignity.”