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Minneapolis Park Board ends homeless encampment permits

The resolution was passed in part due to cold winter temperatures.
Credit: David Peterlinz

MINNEAPOLIS — In a 5-3 vote on Wednesday, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) voted to repeal two resolutions passed last summer which allowed people experiencing homelessness to take refuge in local parks. 

After those resolutions were passed, hundreds of tents appeared in parks around the city, most notably in Powderhorn Park, which at one point had over 300 residents. 

However, MPRB has been walking back those resolutions for months after several violent incidents and complaints of unsafe conditions from nearby residents, and Wednesday's decision finally puts an end them, citing cold temperatures "among other reasons." 

The new resolution also said that using Minneapolis encampments to shelter people experiencing homelessness "is not a safe, proper, or dignified form of housing and is, at best, a temporary solution for encamped individuals."

"The Park Board resolution replaces and effectively repeals two previous resolutions on encampments in Minneapolis parks," MPRB said in a written statement. "The resolution ensures the Park Board will abide by all of the Governor’s executive orders and laws related to encampments, provides a framework for the development of a new Park Board Unsheltered People Policy, and focuses our work with city and county partners on the shared goal to get unsheltered people into shelter and housing. The previous resolutions adopted by the Park Board allowed the Superintendent to issue permits for encampments.  As the prior resolutions have been replaced, the Superintendent no longer has authority to issue permits for encampments."

In the resolution approved Wednesday, MPRB expressed its intent to reach out to Mayor Jacob Frey and Hennepin County leadership to "request a collaborative and coordinated plan for how encampments will be addressed on public land," and encouraged "the State of Minnesota, Hennepin County, and the City of Minneapolis to continue pursuit of expanded opportunities for permanent shelter for unsheltered homeless populations." 

In October, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid filed a lawsuit to stop sweeps of park encampments that were displacing residents and allegedly destroying their personal property. In a written statement to KARE 11, ACLU-MN staff attorney Isabella Nascimento said she was "dismayed" by MPRB'S latest decision. 

"Their action does nothing to guarantee safe or adequate shelter," Nascimento said. "It just passes the buck onto other agencies that clearly lack enough shelter space, housing or other resources to offer our unhoused neighbors, leading to the need for people to set up tent homes in our parks in the first place. The extent of our homelessness crisis is very real, and for one crucial moment, the tent communities in our parks made us all fully appreciate that. It’s time for compassion and concerted, coordinated effort by Minneapolis, Hennepin County and the Park Board to address the insufficient shelter space in the Twin Cities and a severe shortage of deeply affordable housing."

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