Response to Franklin/Hiawatha homeless encampment
The Franklin/Hiawatha homeless encampment. (Photo courtesy Camille J. Cage)
Background on encampment
The Franklin/Hiawatha homeless encampment, also known as the Wall of Forgotten Natives, is located along a sound wall on the east side of Highway 55 near the Little Earth community. It’s the most visible homeless encampment in the metro area, but not the only one.
The encampment is a symbol of Minneapolis’ housing crisis. The city faces several housing challenges, including a shortage of affordable housing, record low vacancy rates, homelessness and housing instability.
The prevalence of homeless encampments has increased dramatically across the country, according to "Tent City, USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding," a study by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.The center's research revealed a 1,342 percent increase in the number of encampments in the U.S. between 2007 and 2016.
The growth of the Franklin/Hiawatha encampment also comes as Hennepin County's shelter system is at capacity. There are about 1,000 shelter beds in the county with an average occupancy rate of 98 percent.
Temporary Navigation Center
The City Council has approved a site in south Minneapolis for a temporary Navigation Center that will provide a safe and service-rich environment for people living at the Franklin/Hiawatha homeless encampment who face challenges connecting to traditional shelter housing.
The Council voted Sept. 26 to direct City staff to work with community and government partners to establish the center at 2109 Cedar Ave., a 1.25-acre site that includes parcels owned by the Red Lake Nation and the City. The goal is to open the Navigation Center this fall. Until the center opens, there are no plans to close the encampment.
Hennepin County, nonprofit partners and community will take the lead on developing and implementing the services at the Navigation Center with support from the City. As a longer-term solution, the City and coalition partners have also recommended a new transitional housing program geared toward Native Americans experiencing chronic homelessness. An update to the Council on that recommendation is scheduled for Oct. 24.
Ongoing outreach efforts at the encampment continue to focus on harm reduction strategies to improve health, hygiene and sanitation in addition to assessments to help people secure emergency shelter and supportive housing.
Overview of encampment outreach work
In addition to the work focused on creating a temporary Navigation Center at 2109 Cedar Ave. in south Minneapolis, the City has worked closely with community and government partners to provide extensive outreach at the encampment.
“We are trying to find options not just for now — not just for a problem that is epitomizing a larger problem — but thinking beyond that to say what are we going to do in general for all of our communities who are facing homelessness,” said Minneapolis City Coordinator Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde during a recent presentation to a City Council committee.
Several departments across the City enterprise have been heavily involved in outreach work at the encampment.
- The Minneapolis Health Department: The City’s Health Department has taken the lead in coordinating work with several partners to improve sanitation, health and hygiene at the encampments. Key priorities include:
- Improving sanitation by installing portable toilets and handwashing stations to prevent the spread of disease such as hepatitis A.
- Working with community partners including Southside Harm Reduction, Vahalla and Natives Against Heroin to minimize the risks associated with drug use by ensuring access to clean needles and sharps collection, among other things.
- Providing food safety information and guidance to reduce the risk of food borne disease.
- Working with the state and county epidemiologists on disease surveillance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
- Coordinating with Hennepin Healthcare for the Homeless and Livio to ensure triage and first aid.
- Coordinating with the Minnesota Department of Health to provide rapid testing of diseases, such as HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis C.
- Assuring people are connected to a home clinic so they can establish regular healthcare.
- Working with Hennepin County to offer training on self-care to care providers.
- The Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) department has been working with partners, including the Red Lake Nation, on establishing a temporary Navigation Center at 2109 Cedar Ave. S. The center will provide a safe and service-rich environment for people. The goal is to have it open by December.
- The Public Works Department has installed a hydrant-based drinking fountain to provide easy access to safe drinking water; partnered with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to provide twice-a-day solid waste services; and coordinated with MnDOT to place a generator powered light tower at the encampment.
- The Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct has conducted regular patrols at the encampment. Sgt. Grant Snyder, MPD’s homeless liaison, has also spent significant time at the encampment, building relationships and connecting people with social service agencies.
- The Fire Department work on the encampment has been centered around fire safety and emergency response. The Chief and the Assistant Chiefs have visited the encampment on multiple occasions to discuss fire safety and code requirements in response to the open fires at the encampment. The MFD has also responded to medical emergencies in the encampment and provided treatment along with Hennepin County EMS.
Hennepin County has been working in close partnership with the City and community partners on outreach efforts. The County also recently accepted state funding to provide supportive services and temporary housing for encampment residents experiencing substance use disorders at the former Kateri Residence near the encampment.
County staff from several departments have been engaged work at the encampment, including:
- The Office to End Homelessness — a partnership of the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County.
- Public Health.
- Healthcare for the Homeless, a unit within Hennepin County Human Services and the Public Health Department.
- Housing Stability department.
- Chemical health and addiction services.
- Mobile crisis teams.
- Emergency programs.
Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors
The Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) is a coalition of leadership of the region’s Native American-led nonprofits. MUID has taken the lead in working with the City and other partners in finding short, mid- and long-term solutions to help encampment residents.
Red Lake Nation
The Red Lake Nation has been working closely with the City on developing the temporary Navigation Center on land it owns near the encampment. The goal is to open the center by early December and have it operational until May.
State of Minnesota
Several State of Minnesota leaders and agencies have also been involved in outreach work at the encampment, including:
- Cathy ten Broeke, the director to prevent and end homelessness for the State of Minnesota.
- Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness (includes 11 state agencies, the Met Council and the Governor’s office).
- Minnesota Department of Health.
- Minnesota Department of Human Services.
- Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs.
- Minnesota Housing.
- Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).
City Council actions, presentations on encampment
- Oct. 16: City Council Ways & Means Committee actions on funding for Navigation Center
- Oct. 5: City Council passes measure expediting development of temporary Navigation Center
- Sept. 26: City Council approves site for Navigation Center in response to homeless encampment
- Sept. 13: Coalition recommends next steps for encampment response
• Natives Against Heroin
• American Indian Community Development Corporation
• Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center
• Indigenous Peoples Task Force
• Minnesota Department of Transportation
• People Incorporated
• Native American Community Clinic
• Community University Health Care Clinic
• Minneapolis American Indian Center
• Native American Community Development Institute
• American Indian OIC
• Southside Harm Reduction
• Minnesota Department of Health
• Hennepin County
• Indian Health Board
How to help
The community response to the encampment has been swift and generous. To learn more about how to help, visit www.franklinhiawathacamp.org.
Last updated Oct 17, 2018