MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis Police Department said officers arrested two people after city crews moved in to shut down and clear out a homeless encampment in Near North Minneapolis on Thursday morning.
In a statement to KARE 11, a spokesperson for the city said the encampment, located at 205 Girard Ave. N., has "long posed public safety and health challenges and been used as a storage area for stolen goods."
The two people arrested were booked into Hennepin County Jail for obstruction, according to an MPD Spokesperson.
“The city's homeless response team has made frequent visits to the site in the past two years to provide information about services and shelter options, but the majority of people living at the encampment have declined those resources as well as an opportunity to store their personal belongings through the Downtown Improvement District,” said Minneapolis spokesperson Casper Hill.
In September, Ross and Heather Lumley, owners of property management company The Stepping Stone Group, were left to recover their stolen property on their own after their van was stolen with valuable tools inside and parked in the camp. The couple reported the theft and located the van, but MPD allegedly refused to help due to the hostile nature toward police inside encampments.
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Ted Fox, a resident of the camp at that time, told KARE 11's Lou Raguse that the majority of camp residents would disapprove of the site being used as a storage facility for stolen property.
City crews gave camp residents time to collect their belongings before workers cleared the site, said the city's spokesperson.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid announced a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis to stop sweeps of homeless encampments back in 2020.
A federal judge ruled that lawsuit will be allowed to continue back in August.
“People who are unhoused have the same rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, to privacy and to due process, and those rights must be respected,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson, in a press release at the time.
A spokesperson for the encampment said a bevy of law enforcement, including squad cars, bicycle units, arrest vans and undercover vehicles enforced the eviction at 7 a.m.
“Near North Encampment created stability and access to necessary social services for the residents. It is much easier to connect community members with long-term assistance, identity documents and medical care if they are able to stay in the same place and keep each other safe,” a spokesperson from the encampment said in a press release.
Thursday afternoon, KARE 11 Reporter Danny Spewak attended a planning commission meeting which he said was interrupted by activists protesting the closure of the Near North encampment.
"Shame on you!" chanted Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality. "What we need is appropriate housing for people. And what we need is variances, so that when there isn't appropriate housing, the encampments can stay in force."
The city of Minneapolis, however, maintains that encampments are illegal and unsafe, and that it's better to connect people with housing through the help of outreach teams and Hennepin County.
Danielle Werder, area manager of the Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, said their teams are in constant contact with people who live in homeless encampments. She said the county launched a "Streets to Housing" program this fall that has already helped nearly 150 people.
"Wherever people end up, we will be there," Werder said. "To develop a team that's going to intervene in people's homelessness and unsheltered setting right away. What do you need? What are your housing resources? How can we connect you?"
In a statement, Mayor Jacob Frey's office said the following:
"In Minneapolis, we have established long-term solutions that give people safe, indoor spaces they can call their own – like the Avivo tiny home indoor village model. These solutions are proven to work, especially in Minnesota where it’s cold for at least half the year.
The City continuously works in collaboration with Hennepin County staff, partner organizations, street outreach teams, and harm reduction workers to connect unsheltered residents to services, including indoor shelter and housing options."
You can see the city's response to homelessness here.
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