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Minneapolis School Switches To Distance Learning After Shooting At Nearby Homeless Encampment

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Crime at a homeless camp has forced a Minneapolis school to switch to distance learning for the safety of students and staff.

The encampment is near Volunteers of America High School, which is located at the intersection of Franklin and Cedar avenues in the Seward neighborhood. Trouble in the encampment has spilled over into the school's parking lot.

Now, neighborhood leaders are searching for a solution.

"During the day, it's actually rather subdued, but it triples in size at night after the sun goes down," said Dr. Joe Hobot, of the American Indian OIC, which is located across the street on Franklin Avenue.

From his office, Hobot has viewed life at the encampment. He says he's seen open drug use, drug dealing, prostitution, and gang involvement, with outsiders coming to partake in crime or profit from the lifestyle of the unsheltered.

A shooting in August was enough to force the VOA High School to shift from in-person to virtual classes.

"There was a shooting...from one of the residents of the encampment. The report was that the resident emerged from a tent with an automatic handgun and just randomly started firing at passing traffic," Hobot said.

In a statement, the school said that while it had "great appreciation" for community partners seeking better solutions for the neighborhood, it "cannot accept this dangerous situation is tolerable for anyone involved...least of all our students and teachers."

Marisa Cummings, the CEO of Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center, said the path toward a solution will require community leaders to listen to community members, take what they learn and make systemic-level changes.

Hobot agrees.

"[We need] to start tearing down this system that's predicated on white supremacy and racism," he said, "and start bringing up an authentic, more equitable, and equitarian system that empowers people before it gets this bad."

Both Hobot and Cummings are working with Mayor Jacob Frey to find creative ways to help the city's homeless population.

VOA High School officials say that in-person classes won't resume until they feel it's safe or the camp is moved.

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