MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The number of people who are living in Minneapolis Parks is growing. A month ago the park board voted to allow people to live in parks. There are now 35 encampments in parks around the city.

Powderhorn Park went from a few dozen residents to around 300 in a month. In that month, park police say there have been three sexual assaults, the most recent one involving a young girl.

Jon Sawyer owns an apartment building right beside Powderhorn Park. “Minneapolis deserves better than this,” he said.

“There’s been more complaints about police being called to address violence issue, a lot of stolen cars are turning up in our parking lot. We’ve had to deal with police about and we’ve had several residents in the building state they no longer feel safe living here and they plan to move,” he said.

A few blocks away, Lily Lamb, one of the volunteers advocating for the people living in the park said she didn’t know what a good solution would be. “If I did I would be shouting it from the rooftops. The reality is a group of citizens and volunteers aren’t going to be able to solve this without the coordinated efforts of all of government officials.”

The mayor did not respond to our questions, the county says they are working so people in tents can have – roofs.

David Hewitt works with the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness.

“There is an incredibly large shelter system for adults but it does have restraints,” he said.  “New people come in everyday and there are a small number of beds available but we certainly don’t have the beds available as we look at the size of the encampments.”  Hewitt said leaders say they are filing for a grant today to get more funding for housing.

The next park board meeting is scheduled for July 15.

Hennepin County has an assistance line for anyone who may need help with clothing, financial assistance, groceries, medical care, equipment, or medications. You can call 612-348-3000 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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