Organizations say focus on Minneapolis tent city needs to shift

“The problem isn’t that there are people that are homeless in your neighborhood... The problem is that they don’t have a place to go.”

Edgar Linares
September 07, 2018 - 6:18 pm

By Edgar Linares

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As the homeless encampment near Hiawatha and Cedar Avenues South in Minneapolis continues growing each day, groups helping the people there say attention on the tents needs to shift away from the eyesore to the people.

“The problem isn’t that there are people that are homeless in your neighborhood or neighborhoods throughout the city. The problem is that they don’t have a place to go,” said John Tribbett, the Street Outreach Program Manager with St. Stephen's Human Services. “We haven’t created the housing and opportunities for those people to get into that housing. That’s what the real problem is, and that’s where the real outrage should be.”

It was one month ago, when Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo toured the homeless encampment.

“Everyone deserves a home,” said Mayor Frey on August 8. “Everyone should have a safe place where they can head to at the end of the night and seeing this take place in our city is tough.”

Many staying at what’s been deemed “The Wall” say living together makes them feel safe, rather than being alone on the streets. Tribbett says the last time a large concentration of homeless people living together like this occurred in the Twin Cities was during the 1900s.

“Arguably if you go back to the turn of the century, the 19th to 20th century, there were plenty of people sleeping all along the Mississippi. There were formal encampments all along,” said Tribbett.

Tribbett added that people working in the city’s park system are reporting more homeless people staying outside this year compared to last. He also says Minneapolis has a lot of potential to help.

“We can garner the resources to build hundreds of millions of dollars worth of materials and we’re building all these beautiful buildings all over the city,” said Tribbett.

He says the notion of homeless people being criminals is something that needs to change as well.

“I think that is the most important thing to remember. That these are just human beings going about their life in the best way they know how,” he said.

Minneapolis City officials hope to place those living in the tents into permanent housing by the end of the month, especially before winter arrives.