Minneapolis leaders address racial disparities among homeless, plans for camp

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Leading the annual "Heading Home Hennepin" meeting, a social initiative to end homelessness county-wide, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey already has both a short and long-term plan in place.

Frey's short-term plan involves closing the city's homeless encampment along Franklin and Hiawatha avenues next month. 

“The truth is the encampment is not a safe action for the long term, so that will be ending in December, and people will be transitioned to the Navigation Center,” he said.

The Navigation Center will be a first of its kind emergency shelter. The shelter will sit on Red Lake Nation land and is set to house about 120 people. A reported 150 tents remain at the encampment.

“We believe that providing shelter, providing warmth and social services - that’s the role of city working in conjunction with different jurisdictions and that’s the role we’re willing to take on,” Frey said.

Central to this year's "Heading Home" conversation are the staggering racial disparities among the homeless. 

According to a study by Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities, 65 percent of the homeless across the nation are black, while only 28 percent are white and 6.9 percent are Hispanic; a total of 78.3 percent are people of color.

“Indigenous people in this country, people of color, African American people, carry trauma with them. It’s embedded in their genes,” said Robert Lilligren, the president of Native American Community Development Institute.

Lilligren said the issue is at least two-fold.

“It’s not just a housing issue, it’s an issue of healing,” he said.

Lilligren is referring to healing centuries of oppressive trauma and dismantling our country's long-standing, structural racism.

In terms of addressing the disparity on all fronts housing and employment, Alex Tittle with the Hennepin County Disparity Reduction Center added that "if you're not at the table helping make decisions, you’re going to be up for the fall."

Mayor Frey said his long-term plan involves establishing tenant protections, more affordable housing and creating more opportunities for home ownership.