Minneapolis momentum: City streets buried under trash and homeless camps

"It’s total sadness. It's defeating. I won't even take the garbage out without conceal and carry," said Mark, who has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years. 

Trash blocks the sidewalks at 30 West Lake Street in Minneapolis. (Photo provided to Alpha News)

Overflowing junk, debris, and homeless encampments mark the areas surrounding West Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis. Residents are calling on the city to clean up the mess and say it has only gotten worse over the years.

“It’s total sadness. It’s defeating. I won’t even take the garbage out without conceal and carry,” said Mark, who has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years.

Mark recorded videos of the junk, graffiti, and homeless encampments that now cover the former Sullivan’s SuperValu, Kmart and surrounding areas on West Lake Street.

Kmart currently serves as a temporary post office because the Lake Street and Minnehaha post offices were destroyed during the George Floyd riots. Mark’s wife, Brooks, told Alpha News the temporary post office is unusually quiet since nobody wants to go near the building due to loitering.

“They tend to hang out right in front of the door of the post office. So somebody’s managed to keep them away from that, but they are on both ends. There’s a couple shelters and there are people that are selling things in the parking lot,” Brooks explained.

The parking lot of the Kmart, converted to a temporary post office, is filled with bikes, couches and trash.

Neighbors are infuriated and have made several calls demanding the city clear the sites. However, they say the city has not returned their calls.

In an email to Alpha News, a spokesperson for the city of Minneapolis said:

“The City is fully aware of the site and it is a priority for the City to keep the area clean. The City’s Homeless Response Team has been actively engaging with the individuals at the site and is working closely with the identified caseworkers on housing solutions to those who are receptive. The City is also working on developing a comprehensive approach to site clean-up and safety for the summer.”

Despite the city’s response, residents are doubtful.

“It’s summer now. I’m so tired of hearing ‘comprehensive.’ They’ve got terms for everything that you hear over and over again until they mean nothing. It’s just words,” Brooks responded.

“Do you know the definition of that cliche? It’s ‘we don’t know what the hell to do,’” Mark added.

Residents told Alpha News the city won’t do anything about the graffiti on many of the buildings because it’s considered “murals.”

“But every time one of our buildings get tagged, we get a letter that says you got to take it off,” Mark explained.

Brooks noted that her and her husband spend most days inside their home as shootings remain a daily crime and dwellers hang out at nearby businesses. However, the problem goes beyond West Lake Street and Nicollet.

A portion of one of the encampments near West Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue South.

“On 19th and Nicollet, which is the other direction of our house, in that parking lot you will get asked if you want to buy drugs, you’ll get threatened and you’ll get asked for money. We don’t go there anymore because they shoot at each other across Nicollet,” said Brooks.

Last week, Alpha News reported on a block-wide homeless camp in Minneapolis featuring makeshift buildings and a border wall. The encampment is less than a mile from Target Field, a farmers market, the University of St. Thomas and a host of other Twin Cities mainstays on the west side of downtown.

In a tweet, Crime Watch Minneapolis shared several photos of Minneapolis in a state of decay. In one photo, loiterers are seen blocking sidewalks and entryways.

City leaders periodically have tried evicting camps. Last week, a group paid by the city arrived to remove a homeless camp but apparently withdrew before the camp could be dismantled.

Minnesota’s rental assistance program, RentHelpMN, allocated more than $445 million in an effort to keep struggling renters in their homes. However, legislators have pointed out that programs like these are not viable, long-term solutions because the state cannot afford to subsidize large amounts of rent once COVID-related federal assistance expires.

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey believes his city is bouncing back. “I’ll keep saying it, MPLS is coming back!” he tweeted from a recent event.


Pafoua Yang

Pafoua Yang is a reporter for Alpha News. She has worked as an on-air reporter for stations across the Twin Cities.