Minneapolis again shuts down homeless camp, confirms ‘newborn’ was found dead there 

City officials outlined the numerous health and safety issues associated with the encampment during a press conference Tuesday.

encampment
"Nenookasi" encampment at E 26th St and 14th Ave S (submitted to Crime Watch)

The city of Minneapolis evicted a large-scale homeless encampment Tuesday known as “Camp Nenookaasi” for the second time this month.

For months, the encampment occupied a city-owned lot at East 23rd Street and 13th Avenue South until its Jan. 4 eviction. In response, many residents of the encampment simply relocated to a new lot just a few blocks away, at East 26th Street and 14th Avenue in south Minneapolis.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, city operations officer, and Community Safety Commissioner Toddrick Barnette called a press conference Tuesday to discuss the second eviction, which they said was inevitable because of numerous safety and health concerns.

The conference was immediately interrupted by a man who was outraged at the city’s decision.

“People were given an opportunity to gather their items, their personal belongings, as well as take down the yurts that are on site,” said Anderson Kelliher, who noted that the city would wait for residents to clear the encampment “before securing of the site begins.”

“Every single night since the beginning of January, there have been between 80 and 90 shelter beds available for people. We do understand that temporary shelter is not the ultimate answer for people, but often temporary shelter has to be used to be able to get to permanent housing, and in many cases treatment for addiction and other issues,” she said.

She estimated that the number of people permanently living at the new encampment location was under 25.

Barnette, a former Hennepin County judge, outlined the numerous health and safety issues at the camp.

“We believe that everyone deserves safe housing. Unfortunately, large encampments don’t provide that. They pose a significant health and safety risk to both the people living in the encampments and the surrounding community,” he said, then confirming that a “newborn” was found dead at the encampment in October. The city previously described the child as a “fetus.”

“Some of those issues have been death threats among campers, assaults, gunshots with injuries, vandalism, property damage, drug overdoses, and fentanyl use,” he continued. “Last October … there was a newborn death at the encampment and also there was an individual who died from a drug overdose. In December, a man was shot and killed, and last week the Department of Health, their team had to respond to an outbreak of a stomach virus.

“Our Health Department continues to monitor the air quality at the encampment due to the camp fires. Yesterday, a 29-year-old man, unidentified man, was shot and sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to the hospital. That occurred just outside the encampment and based on our preliminary information that we have, the individual that shot him emerged from the encampment when that interaction occurred.”

The first encampment, which had occupied a city-owned lot since August, became a public safety and health hazard, the city said. (Hayley Feland)

Anderson Kelliher estimated that the city likely has spent “hundreds of thousands” of dollars clearing the encampment because of the hours of staff time devoted to the issue.

The city’s focus remains on “preventing large-scale encampments from forming,” as opposed to the many small encampments dotting the city, she said.

Camp organizer Nicole Mason livestreamed portions of the eviction to Facebook and claimed that the city didn’t provide any notice that the eviction would take place Tuesday.

City Council Member Jason Chavez called the city’s approach “inhumane.”

“I just left the ongoing Camp Nenookaasi eviction today. A surprise eviction that is displacing a ton of people without a place to go,” he said. “We are ready to take council action on a land transfer for a healing center.”

City staff are expected to provide an update on the eviction process to a City Council committee Wednesday afternoon.

 

Anthony Gockowski
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Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and wrote for the Daily Caller.