MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From the buzz of the Super Bowl to the excitement of the Final Four, Nicollet Mall was once the center of celebration. These days, it’s the focus of concern.
On Wednesday at 10, WCCO shared some of the images of the people experiencing homelessness on Nicollet Mall. We saw a number of fights and medical emergencies over the course of just two weeks.
On Thursday, WCCO’s Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield showed the video to public officials at all levels to ask what’s being done. When it comes to the issue of homelessness, there are many different layers — the state, the county, the city and the Downtown Council, and WCCO reached out to all of them.
Cathy ten Broeke is the state’s director to prevent and end homelessness, and she called the footage WCCO shared “so incredibly painful. The level of desperation you see is not new, but it’s so compounded right now.”
She says COVID-19 and social unrest have multiplied trauma and homelessness.
“The solution is housing. Everybody deserves a safe place to live,” she said.
She says the state as of this week is starting a new Medicare shelter program and they got $19 million of federal money to create more housing.
WCCO also spoke with Hennepin County about the video, with David Hewitt from the Office to End Homelessness.
“It is shocking but in line to what we are seeing elsewhere. It is in response to these challenges that shelters have opened up 24/7 so shelters can stay in during the day, creation of hotel programs for those who are at high risk for COVID.”
He says three new shelters are in the works and there are empty beds now, but connecting people with resources can be tricky. That’s where the Downtown Council is stepping in. The video was no surprise to them.
“My reaction was it’s an accurate portrayal of some of the conditions we’ve seen building on Nicollet over the course of the summer,” Minneapolis Downtown Council president Steve Cramer said.
As of next week, the Downtown Council will have Nicollet Mall staffed with workers with resources from Mad Dads and Youth Link ten hours a day, with a goal of building bridges and hope.
“It’s a tough situation and we have to respond differently than we have before, and that’s what we are going to do stating Monday,” Cramer said.
Mayor Jacob Frey was not available for an interview, but his office sent a statement saying they are working with St. Stephens on street outreach and are expecting a $9 million grant in August.