MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Pushback by residents in the Willard-Hay neighborhood in north Minneapolis has forced Hennepin County to stop its plans for en emergency women’s homeless shelter.

Some of those neighborhoods are aren’t just celebrating yet; they say there is much more work to do.

The building has been sitting empty since 2005, and since that time many in the community have been asking for it to be turned into a much-needed youth center.

When word got out that Hennepin County was set to turn the Gordon Center into a women’s homeless shelter, residents came together in protest. Hundreds of people signed a petition in opposition to what Hennepin County had planned for the property, which was to turn the vacant building into a 50-bed Salvation Army shelter for Black single women.

It was one of three proposed shelters the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County planned to open in response to tent encampments popping up in city parks.

Willard-Hay residents say they were angry because no one asked them what they felt fit best in the space.

“We knocked on over 700 doors. We talked to people on the street, we got petitions signed by people in the community saying what they want in their community, so we let their voices be heard,” Lisa Clemons, with A Mother’s Love, said.

“Community over here, they know what they need, and they know what they want, and that is the way that it should work. That’s the only way its going to work. We don’t need the other red tape,” Kelly Jo Felder, with the Minneapolis School Board, said.

Willard-Hay residents say they are not done fighting. They hope to secure funding to open the Gordon Center up as a youth center as well as develop Willard school into an incubator for business and nonprofits.

Reg Chapman

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