MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis City Council voted Wednesday to approve a temporary site to house hundreds of homeless people who have been living in tents at an encampment just south of downtown.
The unanimous vote to set up a “navigation center” on land that’s primarily owned by the Red Lake Nation came at an emergency council meeting, as city leaders expressed urgency in moving as many as 300 people from the large encampment before Minnesota’s brutal winter takes hold.
Most of the camp’s residents are American Indian, and the camp has been called the “Wall of Forgotten Natives” because it’s near a highway sound wall.
David Frank, director of the city’s Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, said it could be early December before the site is ready because the current tenant needs to vacate buildings on the site, and those buildings need to be demolished because they are not safe to live in.
“There’s no perfect site. This is an emergency,” Frank told the City Council.
Sam Strong of the Red Lake Nation said the current tenant on the land could agree to move out before his lease expires, and if the permitting process is expedited, the site could be ready sooner.
Tribal and city leaders stressed the ultimate goal is to come up with more stable long-term housing solutions for the hundreds of homeless in the city.
Leaders now must work to determine what kind of shelters will be at the site — trailers and other forms of heated shelters have been discussed — as well as figure out who will operate it, how it will be financed, and the coordination of services for residents.
Mayor Jacob Frey thanked tribal leaders for helping find this solution, which had tribal support.
“Our work will continue to be done in partnership with the native community and will be guided by several overriding goals: protecting everyone’s health and safety, providing supportive social services, and ultimately finding more permanent housing options for our communities experiencing homelessness,” Frey said in a statement.