MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Every day in Minnesota, 8,000 people experience homelessness. With the onset of COVID-19, shelter space was limited, but with the death of George Floyd and the following unrest, the situation intensified.

After Floyd’s death, the Sheraton Hotel opened as a space for sanctuary, housing 200 temporary residents. But then, they were suddenly kicked out.

Abu Bakr lived in the Sheraton for those few tempestuous days after his car – which he had been living in – was set on fire during one of the protests.

“It had a really good set up as far as the rooms,” he said. “I didn’t see it lasting that long because we have to facilitate that type of thing.”

Bakr has dreams of becoming a computer programmer. He has also studied Arabic, and tries to do outreach for youth in the community.

But finding a job is difficult in the COVID-19 economy, and even harder for those experiencing homelessness.

“To have your own privacy to prepare for things like job interviews, to even wake up in the morning to prepare yourself, you’re going to need privacy,” said Bakr.

Homelessness is an issue that compounds, said Bakr. It’s not just about missing finances. “It’s their criminal record and not giving the person a chance when they make a mistake. And that takes years and year to develop that off your record.”

People’s rental records might not be good either, their credit might not be good, he said. “A person might not want to take a chance on you because it’s in the air. They don’t know if you’re going to be a good tenant or a bad tenant.”

After the Sheraton Hotel was closed down, residents moved into tents in Powderhorn Park. Initially, the Minneapolis Parks Board issued a notice giving the residents 72 hours to find alternative housing. After an outcry from the neighborhood, the park board has rescinded the notice.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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