ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The city of St. Paul is working to evict about 40 people Monday from a homeless encampment in Kellogg Mall Park, where a propane tank exploded three days ago, damaging seven tents.
Officials want to move the encampment’s residents indoors due to the threat of more fires and the winter cold, with overnight temperatures expected to drop well below freezing during the middle of this week.
Despite the conditions, some residents at Kellogg Mall Park say they feel safer at the encampment than at a shelter. For city workers, their job Monday was to convince those living at the encampment otherwise.
“We’re working as hard as we can to address whatever barriers, whatever fears…We want to make it options that people want to take, and we’re committed to that,” said Jaime Tincher, the deputy mayor of St. Paul.
While officials are working with the park’s residents to find a path toward permanent housing, others who’ve experienced encampment life say that the path to a permanent home is a steep climb.
“I feel that we need deeply affordable housing,” said Junil Anderson, who was with a team of community advocates at the park Monday. “We are making all these condos around here, and it’s not affordable for us.”
Anderson is currently living in temporary housing, but stayed in an encampment over the summer as she feared for her safety while staying at shelters.
As for the residents in Kellogg Mall Park, the city says it’s offering each individual a personal, private space to live.
As of Monday afternoon, anyone still choosing to stay in the park can, but no more propane tanks are allowed. City officials tell WCCO-TV they will keep offering alternatives.
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