MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Homeless advocates say there is a huge need for affordable housing in Minneapolis, but the immediate need should be finding enough shelter beds.

The Navigation Center was the solution to getting people out of tents on city streets to temporary housing. Now that it has closed, tents that serve as shelter for people who have nowhere else to go are popping up everywhere.

Their numbers are growing and so is the push to find them housing.

A padlock on the gate outside the Navigation Center keeps people out, while workers on the inside tear down the temporary shelters to make way for more permanent housing for the homeless.

“It was sad, especially when you know you ain’t got nowhere to go,” said Kat, who is homeless.

Kat used to call the Navigation Center home. Now, she lives a stone’s throw away in a field, where there are no resources.

“We’re back on the streets, right where we started and back to a little tent,” Kat said.

Kat’s makeshift home is shared by several people who once lived inside the temporary shelter provided by the city and the Red Lake Nation. She says the closing of the Navigation Center has forced people to return to the streets.

“Everyone is scattered all over and there have been more ODs because we can’t watch one another like we did,” Kat said. “We’re all probably catching trespassing charges. It’s sad, we were better off at the wall.”

“You’re going to be seeing these encampments as long as we don’t have adequate shelter space,” Chris Knutson added.

Knutson is the street outreach team leader for St. Stephen’s.

“Our immediate need is more emergency shelter, in my opinion. We see about 600 people that are currently unsheltered,” Knutson said.

Knutson says with the light rail cutting down late night hours, many who sheltered there will also have no place to go. He says his teams are doing all they can to get resources to the most vulnerable.

“Any affordable housing like new buildings and stuff take time, but the problem exists now. There are currently people who are out on the streets and that number is only going to grow as rents continue to rise,” Knutson said.

The city budget includes $21 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, some of which will be dedicated to housing for the homeless. Mayor Jacob Frey’s Stable Homes Stable School initiative is also finding housing for homeless students and their families.

There is progress, but some say it’s not fast enough.

“We’re at a standstill and with that standstill, it’s kind of like a train and when the train stops, you’re going to crash. Well, were all crashing right now,” Kat said.

The city of Minneapolis is working with federal dollars to provide more shelter space.

Reg Chapman

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