Bill would require cities to store property seized from homeless encampments

The bill would also impose some restrictions on issuing citations for loitering to encampment tenants. 

A homeless encampment along 37th Avenue Northeast and Technology Drive in Minneapolis that was removed last fall. (Kyle Hooten/Alpha News)

A new bill in the Minnesota House would establish policies for local governments to follow when removing homeless encampments from their cities.

The bill’s provisions ask local governments to post a public notice at least 72 hours prior to an encampment’s removal and store all personal property from the encampment for at least 30 days.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Aisha Gomez, would also require cities to connect homeless individuals with services like food banks and soup kitchens, and inform them of where their property is being stored.

“Often when you displace somebody who is in unsheltered homelessness, who’s living in a tent, they bring — they don’t like you to call them bulldozers. I guess they’re Bobcats — but they’ll bring little machines to scoop people’s stuff up and throw it away,” Gomez said during a recent hearing.

The bill would also impose some restrictions on issuing citations for loitering to encampment tenants.

The bill doesn’t have a Senate author and was laid over for further discussion after House Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu Brindley raised concerns.

“This is going to create a pretty significant burden, particularly on small cities and municipalities throughout the state who, number one, don’t have the same problem that we are dealing with in the same way in our urban core, but also don’t have the same resources and infrastructure available to deal with it in this way,” she said, noting that smaller towns might not have the space to store people’s personal belongings.

Gomez said she has spent time visiting homeless encampments in her Minneapolis district and called for developing policies “that treat people humanely even when they’re in really difficult spots in their lives.”

A 2020 report found that Minnesota had the 13th-highest rate of homelessness in the nation, with an estimated homeless population of 7,977.

A group of businesses along 37th Avenue Northeast and Technology Drive sued the city of Minneapolis in October, claiming the city was making accommodations for a “dangerous and disruptive” homeless encampment. The encampment was cleared a few weeks later.

Progressive activists have resisted the removal of homeless encampments in recent months and clashed with Minneapolis officers in August 2020 when they attempted to clear a sprawling encampment in Powderhorn Park.