BY KAY SCHROVEN
Significant concerns about health and safety continue at Powderhorn Park and have led to eviction of the west camp (the east camp having already been evicted between July 22 and 27) per the Park Board Superintendent Alfred Bangoura. Notices of Transition were served July 31, and an effort is being made to assist individuals with the transition.
This time around, rather than have the police deliver Notices of Transition (as was done with the east camp) MAD DADS served the notices to the remaining campers in the west camp. The goal is to carry out an incremental removal through encouragement and support services (such as information about available options and transportation) rather than utilize the police.
It is believed that a rape committed on Thursday, July 30, in the camp was a contributing factor in the decision to vacate. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) has done an impressive job this summer (2020) providing temporary space for hundreds of unsheltered people. But this is not a sustainable solution to homelessness. Nor is it MPRB’s role to serve people experiencing homelessness, sadly a growing population in the metro area and the state at large.
Disturbing incidents continue to be reported in the Powderhorn neighborhood. Most recently, neighbors reported witnessing three young men strong arming a young woman into a car as she screamed for help. Another neighbor reported witnessing a fight in front of his house in the late evening. Reportedly, around 10 p.m. the evening of July 30, about 15 people (young men and women) were yelling, shoving and pushing, name-calling and making accusations, until the cops were called and broke it up. Whether or not these incidents are directly connected to the residents of the encampment or not, it is often perceived that they are, because they occur on the periphery of the park.
In addition to these concerns, Powderhorn is not eligible for available permits (see below) to camp in parks because of its location in a “school safe zone” according to Resolution 2020-267. The Laura Ingalls Wilder School sits on the southwest side of the park.
As of July 30, there were 418 (estimated) tents in all city parks, 65 of those (15.5%) in Powderhorn. In addition to Powderhorn there are 36 parks with tents, ranging in number (of tents) from 1 to 32.
Permits are now required. MBRB Outreach and StreetReach staff is reaching out to existing encampments to discuss the permit requirement and providing applications. The application process is laid out in Resolution 2020-267, which allows for 20 parks to have encampments with up to 25 tents in each park. Applications are available to volunteers, nonprofits, legal entities and government or non-governmental partners and agencies. Applications can be found online (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling 612-230-6400. The applications are reviewed by the MPRB, as are the potential sites, to assure that they have the capacity to support an encampment. Once approved, the MPRB works with the permit holder to design the encampment and provides portable toilets, hand-washing stations and trash and recycling containers, as vendor supplies allow. As of July 30, one site was approved at Lake Harriet and several others were being considered. Approved parks are listed at www.minneapolisparks.org/subscribe and local recreation centers.
While continuing to provide temporary space for those who are unsheltered, the Board realizes this is not a dignified, long-term solution and will be working with city, county and state agencies so that people living in encampments can have accommodations before the cold weather arrives.