A chance to change: Unhoused man sees opportunity after Minneapolis sweep

The city of Minneapolis cleared out an East Phillips homeless encampment Thursday morning. Dozens of people scattered from the camp on Lake and South 1st, and one of them said he sees the sweep as an opportunity.

Vejon Murray said he knows living in the encampment and using drugs is a choice and he knows it’s a bad one, but it’s a hard choice to change.

Being forced to leave might be the prompt he needs.

Clothes, tents, and blankets are going out with the trash at this Minneapolis homeless encampment.

Some of its now-former residents stayed to watch the sweep which came as no surprise.

"It’s not like we didn't know," said Murray. "We had a heads up last week that we had to be done today."

Murray moved across the street with some of his belongings and he welcomed some of the helping hands that followed the cleanup crews.

"We just found out about the tent encampment being evicted," said Bianka Truman of MN Teen Challenge. "So we're handing out our cards to let people know that we're there for them and we can help them with any resources they may not have gotten here."

Truman is part of a team of Teen Challenge recovery navigators who offered their support, hoping to move some of the unhoused people from the streets to shelters and treatment.

But they know a lot of the people they’re trying to help are dealing with addiction and won’t choose to go somewhere they can’t use.

"Unfortunately, in Minnesota, there's a lot of shelters that are full," said fellow recovery navigator Danielle Krech. "We've been looking for shelters. The closest one, they said, is about four hours away from Minneapolis for open shelters."

They expect most folks to just move to another corner somewhere and set up a new camp. But maybe not Murray. 

He says this is a chance to rethink everything and make better choices.

And he hopes to start the very same night.

"I’m going to spend it somewhere better than that," he said, pointing towards the former encampment. "You know, that's how I look at it. I’m going somewhere better than that."

City officials tell FOX 9 they gave everybody 30 minutes to clear out and then cleaned up thousands of pounds of garbage at the illegal encampment.