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'We Can Do It Humanely': Minneapolis Park Board Prepares To Remove Homeless Minnesotans From City Parks

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Hundreds of homeless Minnesotans are being forced out of Minneapolis parks.

Encampments have spread throughout city parks since the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board allowed it last month. But now, the board has decided to limit encampments in parks to 25 tents.

At Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis, that means downsizing, according to Minneapolis Park Commissioner-at-Large Londel French.

"We've been kind of letting folks know that they may need to be moving," French said. "Like a week or two ago we were telling folks you should start thinking about other places to go."

French says there isn't a deadline right now for when the people who live in Powderhorn Park need to be out.

"If we do it the right way, we can do it without having folks come in here ... telling people they got to get the hell out of here," French said. "We can do it humanely."

That's where people like John Tribbett come in. He is the program manager for St. Stephen's Street Outreach team. They're helping the people experiencing homelessness safely transition somewhere new.

Powderhorn Park Homeless
(credit: CBS)

"[A] temporary, very unsatisfactory solution, which is another camp in another park, but hopefully on a smaller scale," Tribbett said.

Hennepin County workers are also on the ground in Powderhorn Park, focusing on getting people inside and out of parks entirely. David Hewitt is the director of the county's Office to End Homelessness.

"[We're] communicating to people their options," Hewitt said. "If it's a family with children, we have shelter for you right now. We can set it up, we can get transport, we can get you over there."

The park board counted fewer than 300 tents in Powderhorn Park as of Thursday, which is down from 560 a week ago.

Read More: As Homeless Encampments Continue To Grow In Parks, Neighbors Look For Answers

Hewitt says many people have left Powderhorn Park because they no longer feel safe.

Jon Sawyer, a nearby apartment building owner, is suing the park board because of crime he says the encampment generates. He is being represented by attorney Joe Tamburino.

"Some of his tenants have seen people try to get into their apartments through those [ground floor] windows," Tamburino said. "It's unsafe. Those tents have to go."

The lawsuit also claims the encampments violated executive orders from Gov. Tim Walz.

The park board responded Friday, saying its decisions were within its authority, and consistent with the governor.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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