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'Where do we go from here?' | North Minneapolis residents seek answers after being displaced due to flooding

Cell phone video showed water gushing inside the building after residents said a pipe burst, causing flooding throughout the building.

MINNEAPOLIS — North Minneapolis' Historic Bell Lofts was condemned by the city on Jan. 3, meaning the property must be vacated by 3 p.m. Friday.

And on Thursday, there were residents rushing to get what was left of their belongings out of the building with no clear answers about what was next. 

"There was water leaking from close to the bedrooms and I noticed the smoke alarms were going off," said resident  Jessica Glover. "It just came in like a swimming pool."

Cell phone video shows water gushing inside the building at 21st Avenue North in Minneapolis after residents say a pipe burst, causing flooding throughout the entire building. The event displaced more than 25 families.

"On Dec. 28, I got a phone call from her with her screaming and crying, saying it was a flood. I rushed over there, and when I got over there, it was sad and chaotic to see all of these women and children running out of the building," said Dyonyca Conley-Rush with the nonprofit It Takes a Village.

"I just broke down and started crying like, what's going to happen to me and my kids? I see water flowing ankle high to the front door of the building," said resident Amari Bell. "It was pretty devastating to see and pretty much nothing was salvageable."

Bell is a mother of two small children who called the building home.

"I have a 4-year-old autistic son and a 1-year-old as well," she said. "We've been in these hotels not knowing what's going on."

Residents are now temporarily staying at a local hotel. Conley-Rush has a sister who was also displaced. She's been stepping in to help.

"You have 20 families, mostly women and children of different races, displaced, and I'm angry," she said. "I'm out here every night at this hotel, bringing items to these people," she said.

According to Minneapolis officials, the Historic Bell Lofts funded the hotel accommodations until Jan. 3.

But on Tuesday, residents received a letter saying, "We had to vacate by 12 on the fourth," said Bell.

With little answers and help, Conley-Rush says this week she received a message of hope.

"I got a phone call saying the Minneapolis Foundation gave everyone seven more days," said Conley-Rush.

A spokesperson with the Minneapolis Foundation confirmed they issued an emergency grant of approximately $12,000 to extend the hotel stays by seven days, which would end Jan. 11, 2023.

But on Jan. 10, the Minneapolis Foundation confirmed it's "extending the support it is providing for the hotel stays of residents impacted by the Bell Lofts flooding for an additional week." 

This means residents will continue to have a place to stay until at least Jan. 18.

But while Conley-Rush is continuing to help with resources and food, residents are still left without long-term housing and are seeking answers.

"I want to know, what is the next step? Where do we go from here? What are all the families and children going to do?" said Bell. "What are we supposed to do after the seven days? Where will we go? I don't have money to stay in a hotel; I'm barely making it."

On Jan. 9, a city spokesperson confirmed city staff met with residents on Jan. 5.

 During the meeting, the city says staff "gathered contact information for all residents onsite so that [they] could proactively share information with [Mid-Minnesota] Legal Aid."

The spokesperson also mentioned staff walked through renter relocation assistance.  

Although KARE11 has yet to hear directly from the landlord, who is identified as Christopher Webley, the city says they have been in contact with him and that its main focus is "providing residents with the assistance they need now and working with the property owner to remediate outstanding life safety concerns as quickly as possible."

The Bell Lofts did start a GoFundMe, but right now it's unclear where that money is going, or when it will be distributed to tenants. 

The Minnesota Attorney General's office released the following statement to KARE11: 

We encourage the residents and any Minnesotans concerned with their landlord to make a complaint to our office by calling (651) 296-3353 or filling out a complaint form on our website.

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