Warming tent set up near Minneapolis homeless encampment

- Crews have put up a warming tent near the Minneapolis homeless encampment to provide some relief from the cold and make it easier for people to receive a hot meal.

“There’s propane heaters in a couple of the tents I stay in, sometimes I stand around the fire,” said Aaron Shaer, who lives at the camp.

Shaer has been at the camp for about two months. He was one of about 50 people Wednesday to spend time inside a hygiene services tent across the street to escape the cold. 

Now, the space has expanded to include a tent erected by the Minneapolis Fire Department. It comes through a program with the DNR and the Department of Defense and will serve as an additional place for campers to stay warm and for meals to be served, following problems with food freezing as it was being handed out by volunteers.

“I think we applied for it just before hurricanes hit down in Florida and South Carolina,” said Assistant Chief Bryan Tyner. “I think if we hadn’t applied for it, then we probably wouldn’t have been able to get it.”

Assistant Chief Tyner says with firefighters and EMTs responding to the encampment daily, they want to try and improve safety as much as possible.

“For right now with the winter coming, we’ll take what we can get,” said Maren Hardy with the American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC). 

Hardy says she hopes serving meals at the site will lure more people across the street to also meet with service providers. She’s noticed the number of people in need fluctuate daily, more with the closure of the St. Paul encampment, but also less with the cold. 

“People who really want it are getting housed, us addicts and alcoholics, we know it’s not fun to get high when it’s cold out, so they are not in tents,” said Hardy. “They are somewhere they can get high where it’s warm.”

Many told Fox 9 they are looking forward to the Navigation Center with beds for 120 being built across the street. It’s another temporary solution to get people through at least until May. 

“It’s all Band-Aids until we get enough housing and affordable housing to fill the gaps that are there,” said Mike Goze, AICDC CEO.

Following this first use, the Minneapolis Fire Department says this tent will be on hand if they need it for other emergencies, possibly as a pop-up command center. The tent is worth about $120,000 including the generator of which the city only has to pay for the gas to keep it warm. 

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