MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The mayor of Minneapolis says he is committed to addressing homelessness in the city.

Jacob Frey was part of a public meeting Tuesday held by city and Hennepin County officials. It is part of a national initiative to address homelessness and racial disparities.

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It comes at a time when hundreds of people are living at a massive homeless encampment just outside downtown Minneapolis.

Frey has been a strong advocate for affordable housing going back to his days serving on the city council. He told the crowd at the Sabathani Community Center that more needs to be done to address racial disparities in homelessness.

“The fact you can now drive by on [Highway 55] or Hiawatha [Avenue] and see homelessness doesn’t mean it’s happening for the first time,” Frey said.

There are still hundreds of people living in tents at the Hiawatha-Franklin encampment. We spoke to two men who have been living there, as they were packing up their things to go to a shelter.

“I thought [racial disparity] was over with Martin Luther King,” said encampment resident Victor McCoy. “It’s still going on.”

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Volunteers stopped by to deliver a hot meal.

“We look at this as almost a humanitarian crisis,” said Camille Gage of Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors.

The city plans to relocate people at the encampment to a temporary navigation center in December. Frey said work will then begin to provide stable housing, but several of the people at the encampment told WCCO-TV off camera they did not want to leave.

We asked David Hewitt, the county’s director of the Office to End Homelessness, if there was a plan if people refuse to go to the navigation center.

“There are people working on that.” Hewitt said. “It’s not my area of focus and expertise.”

Mayor Frey said the city has all options open.

“It will be a step process, one by one,” Frey said.

The county says there were just under 200 people living at the Minneapolis encampment within the last month. The temporary navigation center is expected to open in mid-December.

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Kate Raddatz