Minneapolis' Navigation Center to close June 3, homeless seek new spaces

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Minneapolis’ newly-developed Navigation Center across the street from the former homeless encampment will close June 3rd.

Right now, about 46 people are still living at the Navigation Center. Soon, nearly 28 of them will be in need of some type of housing.

Organizers say the center was never intended to be a permanent solution, but others fear the tent city might be back this summer.

City leaders gathered Wednesday afternoon to figure out the next step in addressing the homeless crisis in Minneapolis.

The Navigation Center was built in response to a rapidly growing homeless encampment near Franklin and Hiawatha avenues last summer that saw rampant drug use, fires and even deaths over the course of several months. At its busiest in January, the Navigation Center housed nearly 200 people.

“Shelter works. It’s a very effective tool for getting folks connected to all the things we need to be stable in life and stable in housing,” said Steve Horsfield, Executive Director of Simpson Housing, which operates the center alongside Red Lake Tribe members and the city.

Earlier this month, the group started preparations to transition people to other forms of housing or drug treatment. But, activists who were on the ground in the middle of tent city believe these organizations are not really ready for what's to come.

“We see a lot of homeless still, and there’s going to be a lot of homeless. Are we ready for a wall two? Is there going to be one? I think there is; there are so many people out there that are homeless still,” said James Cross with Natives Against Heroin.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said his team took a different path from past administrations when tackling homelessness and addiction by choosing empathy over enforcement. He's confident in a successful long-term solution to prevent another encampment this summer.

“We wanted to make sure that every single person was treated with dignity and compassion," Mayor Frey said. “I’m glad we took this approach. Yes, it has been a new way of doing things, but I think it was one that was worth doing.”