MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is set to talk Wednesday about making some changes to the homeless encampments set up in parks around the city.

At Powderhorn Park in south Minneapolis, there are currently tents set up for around 400 people without homes to live in.

“To have a little stability even though we are out here in tents in a park, I feel it’s a little bit better than walking around in the streets somewhere,” resident Nadine Little said. “Where else would we live? On the streets, but the police, they kick us out and then we are walking around on the streets.”

The park board will consider a resolution that would limit the number of parks with encampments to no more than 10, and there could be no more than 10 tents in any encampment. Furthermore, they would all have to be gone by Sept. 1.

The park board commissioner in charge of the Powderhorn district, AK Hasaan, says he is going to vote against new restrictions.

“This is not safe, and no one should be staying at a park, but if it has to be, I’ll protect them,” he said. “There has to be a plan in place. They are saying we are going to move them out by Sept. 1. Where? That’s the question I want to know before I vote.”

For people experiencing homelessness, the situation got especially dire with the arrival of COVID-19, when shelters had to take fewer people. Earlier this month, the park board voted to make all city parks places of refuge for people experiencing homelessness, after weeks of upheaval for the homeless community. A Midtown hotel was being used as a sanctuary, then was cleared out. Park police have responded to two sexual assaults in the park over the weekend.

A number of persons living at Powderhorn Park protested outside the governor’s residence in St. Paul, and neighbors by the park called for a plan to create dignified housing for the people living in the park.

Some Minneapolis residents say this situation is urgent.

“(It’s) out of control. This is a complete lack in leadership going from the governor to the mayor to the park board. Now we have a crisis,” Joe Tamburino said. “We can’t have this lawlessness in our parks.”

Housing advocates at Powderhorn says the encampments are not permanent solutions, but they need more time, and more support from the city and state.

The proposal will be discussed later Wednesday, when the park board votes at their 5 p.m. meeting.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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