MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Heavy plastic tarps cover many of the tents lining what’s being called the Wall of Forgotten Natives, a homeless encampment that continues to grow in numbers. The tarps are added protection from high winds, heavy rain and falling temperatures.
“It got a little windy at times and with heavy rainfall, but everybody managed to stay out of the elements for the most part and stay dry,” said Fabian Jones.
The growth of the city’s homeless camp has been nothing short of staggering. In late July there were 25 people living in tents along the grassy slope at Hiawatha Avenue and East 24th Street. One month later there are closer to 160 campers.
On Tuesday, an estimated 300 homeless men, women and children are crowded into the spot. Advocates for the native American homeless are doing what they can to discourage more from relocating to the site.
“We are telling people who are in shelters or treatment or somewhere, use your resources there, don’t come out here,” said James Cross, with Natives Against Heroin. “There’s nothing that’s going to happen fast out here.”
While food, medical and sanitation services are being brought to the site, providing permanent housing is more challenging.
“It’s not 50 tents anymore, it’s 150 plus tents,” said Robert Lilligren.
Lilligren heads the Native American Community Development Institute. He’s hopeful of a city plan to offer shelter before changing weather becomes more dire. That plan will likely be a combination of emergency trailers and possibly a converted warehouse where the homeless would be out of the cold.
However, any solution must also allow for medical, counseling and other social services to be brought to those in need.
“There is not one size fits all solution here. Almost every family and every household will need its own plan, a way of getting into safe and permanent housing,” said Lilligren.
With each passing day, plans for action only gets more pressing. The Minneapolis City Council’s committee of the whole will convene Thursday to consider its plan of action.