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MN Homeless Shuffle: Police clear out the St Paul Homeless Encampment by Ann Treacy
November 16, 2018, 3:14 am
Filed under: St Paul

Today the St Paul Police evicted the campers down at the St Paul Encampment. The video below captures moments from a 90 minute visit. I am with homeless advocate Monica Nilsson through most of the video so she is the one you hear talking.

The police came to move people on to new locations. New beds opened up today – 14 beds. There were about 40 people at the camp. The people in the camp are not the only people in the city experiencing homelessness. There will be a lot competition for those beds. So on a practical basis, the police were there to take people to other outdoor locations including the encampment in Minneapolis. (The Minneapolis encampment is better setup with porta-potties, running water and now heated tents.) Or maybe they will end up on the train or a bus all night. A few may get lucky and find a bed.

It’s a big people shuffle.

People pack up their stuff – but not all of it. Some of it isn’t worth taking. Some of it is too hard to carry. It’s difficult to watch people who have so little leave so much behind. Thankfully it wasn’t too cold but it’s November in Minnesota so it wasn’t warm either. It was much colder two days ago when campers got the eviction notices.

Like the end of a super sad parade, staff (from the Department of Transportation) were there to clean up the mess. And doing the encampment version of vacuuming under the feet/tents of slow moving campers.

It’s a crazy situation. When I arrived I saw police on horseback – luckily that was the only time I saw them. Sheesh. There were about a dozen police officers and various other paid city/county/state staff. I heard someone from the City say they have spent hundreds of hours working on the situation. So much money spent planning, talking, dealing with the homeless and this is what they come up with? Seems like there might be a better use of those resources.

This isn’t the first time the camp has been evicted. I’ve seen people setting up their tents the by 3pm after a morning clear out. But this seemed different and they put up No Trespassing signs.

My heart goes out to the people who had to leave. I wish a warm, safe place for all of them. Friends have asked me about how they can help. I defer to my friend Monica and borrow from her advice…

Please call Mayor Melvin Carter and St. Paul City Council members, Ramsey County Commissioner and State Legislators. Ask them what their plan is. Where do they suggest they hide and still be seen for help? Office of Mayor Melvin Carter, 651-266-8510 City Council Phone: 651-266-8560

There are a few places online where you can learn more and/or sign up to help. Advocates for the People of St Paul’s Cathedral Hill Encampment, Walking with a Purpose and Franklin Hiawatha Encampment.

Where are the homeless people to go when a tent on the sidewalk is too much to ask? by Ann Treacy
November 13, 2018, 11:26 pm
Filed under: St Paul

There are two big homeless encampments in Minneapolis and St Paul and plenty of mini or solo encampments. You can find homeless people on public transportation at all hours of the night. It’s an epidemic and a sad testament to our sense of community and fairness that youth, women and men are all out sleeping outside with one eye open in temperatures way below freezing. (It was 9 degrees this morning!)

It’s crazy! And today (Tuesday) at noon I saw something even crazier. I saw six or more police and city workers hand eviction notices to people sleeping in tents in St Paul. They are expected to leave by Thursday at 10am. Apparently a new cold-weather shelter has opened with

50 Winter Safe Space beds opened Nov 1, operating from 10pm-9am, 14 will be added Thursday, 5 will be for street outreach referrals, the rest for law enforcement referrals.

The video is rough but you can get the gist below.

The encampment in St Paul is just west of 35E as it passes United Hospital, in the shadow of the St Paul Cathedral. There’s a strip of land behind the Summit mansions that includes a sidewalk and wooded areas. Many workout nuts know the steep staircase that runs from the James J Hill House to the encampment. It’s not a well-traveled area, except during Crashed Ice.

There were 30 tents there today, which seems about average for the location. (And presumably sleep way more than the newly available 5 beds on the offer!)

According to the eviction notice, the police can drive people to a shelter on Thursday, but most shelters are not open at 10 am. My expectation is that on Thursday people will be moved but will return later that day, as I have seen happen in the past. Because there is no space at the inn! There is nowhere to go.

We spoke to one gentleman staying in a tent, wearing a short sleeved shirt as I stood shivering in two jackets. His question – where would be a better place for people to go?

The St Paul camp is contained with a fence and highway on one side, and a fence and hill on the other. He suggested the City charge dollar a day to cover the cost of clean-up and a port-a-potty. He insisted he was OK here. Although he wouldn’t say no to a zero degree sleeping bag. He had a tent that was insulated at least from the ground and a heater he turned on sparingly.

Shelter isn’t even on his shortlist. He knows the cards he has been dealt and he is doing the best he can. He thought maybe the Department of Transportation owned the land and therefore might be out of jurisdiction of the St Paul Police. In fact it sounded like he might be looking at up today to see what to do about that. A group of people experienced in street outreach, including my friend Monica Nilsson, discussed the options for people, trains or outside in another St Paul neighborhood.

Lots of people are living at the encampment. I see ingenuity, compassion and community at the encampments. I see good choices, bad choices, no choices.

In 1991, Wilder estimate that there were 3,500 homeless people; in 2015 that number was 15,109, which was actually down slightly since the last count in 2012. I know about the Wilder estimates because I have been one of the counters. I volunteered in 2012 and 2015 to interview people who were homeless for their “single night out” report that happens every three years. I have always done a late night shift, interviewing people from 10 pm to 1 am at the bus terminal at the Mall of America. The police at the MOA told me that the numbers of people they see has never been higher. I’m not looking forward to seeing the numbers.

I wish we could focus more ingenuity, compassion and community from the outside encampment to create better solutions for people staying there. We have been dealt better cards, we should be able to do better by our neighbors.

Because several people have asked me what to do to help – I’m including a link to a recent Facebook post from Monica https://www.facebook.com/groups/754392541578897/permalink/755715954779889/

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