Over 200 homeless people have been evicted from a Minneapolis hotel that became a sanctuary during protests against the death of George Floyd.
A former Sheraton hotel – turned into emergency shelter – in Minneapolis has endured almost total devastation. The hotel is on a stretch near Lake Street that was badly damaged during last week’s protests. Nearly every room was ransacked, TVs and other valuables were stolen and all amenities, including vending machines and ice makers, were destroyed.
The hotel’s owner, Jay Patel, had agreed to provide shelter to those running from the rioting on May 29, and while this was due to end the next day, he allowed it to stay open after a number of volunteers came forward prepared to create a “mutual aid community care system,” organizing meals, cleaning, and support for residents.
Pretty much every room looks like this. Important to note that it’s not only residents who caused this damage (many residents took care of their rooms and cleaned the common areas). When volunteers pulled out, looters and others were able to move in pic.twitter.com/leASZ7t44C
— Max Nesterak (@maxnesterak) June 11, 2020
By last weekend, all the rooms in the four-story hotel were filled, yet people kept arriving. Other areas of the hotel, including the lobby, were converted to sleeping spaces to accommodate the new arrivals. As of Tuesday, the hotel-turned-shelter had a waiting list of about 450 people.
Some of those who arrived at the hotel had migrated from a large homeless encampment near the light-rail line along Hiawatha Avenue, which was cleared by the Metropolitan Council two weeks ago. Most of those at the encampment were offered and accepted rooms at other hotels with support staff.
The hotel had been a source of “stability and hope amid the civil unrest that followed Floyd’s death on May 25”, the Star Tribune reported.
However, most recently, Patel and a team of volunteers had grown increasingly stressed and exhausted accommodating guests, many of whom were dealing with mental illness and drug use.
Unlike traditional homeless shelters, people who stayed at the hotel were allowed to bring drugs and alcohol on-site. Volunteer medics were focused on preventing overdoses and helping people access health services, rather than enforcing rules that would result in people being forced back onto the streets.
But some residents at the hotel said conditions had begun to spin out of control in recent days, with people injecting heroin and methamphetamine in the hallways, with fights breaking out at night.
“It started out well, then descended into chaos,” said Jennie Taylor, who had a room on the second floor. “People got the message that this was a place where you could use drugs freely and that attracted the wrong crowd.”
Moon Beaumaster, another resident and volunteer at the hotel, agreed. “There were too many drug dealers who were using this place,” she said.
A letter from Ryan Companies, which owns the Midtown Exchange where the hotel is situated, told Jay Patel that the shelter is in violation of the hotel’s contract due to drug, traffic and litter problems. This was not legal and needed to be shut down.
The owner then called for the eviction of all guests Tuesday after the hotel’s fire alarm was pulled following a report of a drug overdose.
Regarding the devastation, Max Nesterak commented, “I spoke to Angel Beaumaster, who volunteered here and whose daughter was living here. She was trying to clean up but was distraught over what happened. “The owner doesn’t deserve this. When the riots were at their worst he did allow people to seek refuge here.”
“I don’t know if the owner has the power to evict us,” said Rosemary Fister, an organizer at the hotel, drawing cheers from residents.
It is unclear who will be reimbursing the hotel staff and owner after the rampant destruction of property.