MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Not far from the bright lights of downtown Minneapolis, a homeless camp lingers in the city’s shadow.

You’ve seen the tents bubble up along Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis and likely asked yourself: How can this happen in our own backyard?

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So we ask some of the 200 men, women and children still living there. Award-winning WCCO photojournalist Tom Aviles stayed the night to take us behind the tarps and inside the crisis in tent city.

“There’s a lot of amazing people here. A lot of people that have so many amazing gifts. But they just don’t know where to find their opportunity,” one volunteer said. “I live in this community. I see people that are less fortunate than myself, so I’m helping my people because a lot of people don’t feel like they’re cared about.”

“Why did I come here? Because I’ve been homeless since I was 15,” one homeless encampment resident said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of potential but sometimes I doubt that. The insecure, empty feeling I get. We all got to want change, because I’m not giving up. Sometimes I want to, I really do.”

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“Sometimes we come down here and we just give back to the community. It’s very important that you help out other people, because like my grandmother said, you never know where you’re going to be in life. I’m a small business owner and if I can play a role in helping out somewhere, can you imagine what somebody with a lot more money and power can do for these people?” another volunteer said.

“It means a lot more when somebody stops and comes in and says ‘Hi.’ When they smile, shake your hand, that means more than anything. That’s humanity.”

A Hennepin County administrator told us health and human service workers have a significant presence at the camp. It’s staffed daily to connect the homeless with health care, addiction medicine and shelter.

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The city plans to open a navigation center in December. The county will help staff that for six months.