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Concerns rise after Minneapolis clears large homeless encampment near Eat Street

Minneapolis city crews clear large encampment near Eat Street
Minneapolis city crews clear large encampment near Eat Street 02:00

MINNEAPOLIS — City crews cleared a big homeless camp near a Minneapolis dining destination Wednesday.

They needed heavy machinery to move out all the garbage that had piled up near 29th and Nicollet, close to Eat Street.

For weeks, WCCO has reported on Eat Street restaurant owners in Minneapolis trying to get the city's attention about the encampment.

READ MORE: Business owners on Eat Street frustrated over lack of response to homeless encampment

But now the question: where do the people go?

"To be honest, there's not a lot of options," said David Andrews, the program manager with Agate Housing and Services' street outreach team.

He says they'll "probably find someplace else and then we'll play this game again."

"I'll put it out there that each time this is very traumatizing to people," Andrews said. "They have to rebuild every time."Andrews says the number of available shelter beds varies night to night, but they're limited.

Council Member Jamal Osman said at a council meeting this week that cycle is bad for everyone.

"My solution is for us to consider having a regulated, safe, sleeping and storage site," Osman said. "A place these folks can stay."

Osman didn't respond to WCCO's interview request about the idea.

"We've seen things like this in other parts of the country," Andrews said. "It really depends on the circumstances. At this point, it's worth trying."

Some neighbors near Eat Street like Osman's idea too.

"If they're getting moved out [of] here, then where else would they go?" said Preston Branch, who lives by the former encampment. "Probably to another place where they're going to get moved out again. It doesn't seem like a solution."

WCCO asked the city if it would consider Osman's idea but didn't get a response.

The city's committed $1 million toward building more tiny homes in south Minneapolis, similar to the ones in North Loop.

The city's statement on Wednesday's clearing:

"The City's Homeless Response Team (HRT) and other community partners have done outreach at the encampment before today's closure, providing information about how to connect to Hennepin County services, including shelter options. Yesterday, 12 people at the encampment declined services. The HRT team has also provided people with water and gloves while on site. 

"Homeless encampments are illegal in Minneapolis and pose significant safety and public health risks to unsheltered people and surrounding communities. The City's focus, along with our County and State partners, is to get everyone into stable, safe, dignified, long-term housing. You can learn more about the HRT team and the City's response to homelessness on the City's website."

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