Told to vacate, Powderhorn encampment residents raise frustrations

Park Board told them to evacuate, but residents wonder where long-term solutions are

Sloane Martin
August 03, 2020 - 7:48 pm
powderhorn park

With residents expecting the encampment at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis to be cleared soon, they’re speaking out about what they call a failure to truly address homelessness.

People living in the 65 tents (as estimated by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as of July 31) remaining on the west side of the park were informed Friday that they need to vacate. Residents insist they’re not being heard, and authorities are not properly allocating funding to address homelessness long-term.

“You don’t want us out here, you keep moving us place to place, that’s not right, that’s not good,” Nadia Little, an unsheltered person living at the encampment, said.

The Park Board voted July 15 to limit the number of parks with encampments to 20 and the number of tents at those encampments to 25 due to health and safety concerns.

Since the uprising following George Floyd’s death, the Park Board has been responding to encampments, including the largest in Minnesota history at Powderhorn, which at one point swelled to more than 500 tents.

According to the Park Board as of Friday, 37 parks had a total of more than 400 tents. Nearly half, 16, have between one and three tents; five have between 10 and 20; and four have more than two dozen.

Park Board Commissioner Londel French said he wants to avoid what happened when the east side of the park was cleared last month.

“I will do my best to advocate that what happened across the lake doesn’t happen again,” French said. “I want a humanitarian way for us to move to different parks. Humane. Not bringing in front-end loaders and tearing people’s tents down.”

French told advocates to pressure their city council members and county commissioners because addressing the root causes of homelessness is outside the Park Board’s purview...

“You  shouldn’t have to be sleeping under a tree,” he said. “Y’all shouldn’t have to be moving to different parks. There’s some systematic failures that exist in our society. The Park Board has done all that we can. We have a $120 million budget. (Hennepin) County has a $2 billion budget. Every dollar that we spend dealing with unsheltered folks is money we can’t spend on our youth programs. We are not the people to be mad at.”

As of Friday, an encampment permit was approved for Lake Harriet and more are underway. The 20 park locations will be determined by applications.

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