Minneapolis neighbors seek new solutions as Powderhorn Park encampment grows

Residents near the homeless encampment at Minneapolis' Powderhorn Park say the presence grows larger and larger each week, posing various issues. Now, they want answers from city officials.

Neighbors say that what started out as 20-30 tents has now reached about 560 with a population of about 700 people. Kaylee lives at the park with her husband and three young children.

"We see needles on the ground. We’re located in back of the park so we’re kinda separate from everybody else, but it seems like there’s a lot of people that go in the park at nighttime," she said.

The encampment does offer plenty of free food, as well as laundry service, restrooms and showers. There's also a security team of sorts. But, neighbors who live near the park say they are no longer welcome or feel safe to use the park. They also cite recent fights, traffic and more issues in the area.

"Specifically for those living in the encampment, three rapes in nine days - two were children. Specifically in the encampment, increased drug use and therefore drug traffic because you have taken an already vulnerable population and condensed them into a very small limited number of square miles, and they are a target," a neighbor said.

"My husband was looking out our living room window the other night, people had their dome light on and he saw them tying the tourniquet and shooting up right there," another Minneapolis resident said.

However, neighbors say it's not a "resident versus encampment" situation. Instead, they say the current conditions aren't a good solution for anyone.

"I can be angry what the residents who are long-term residents are seeing but also be angry at the fact that they have to live in undignified unsafe conditions. So I spend my time writing our elected officials and volunteering - bringing bread, bringing ice, serving food."

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board said the superintendent "had notices served to those at Powderhorn that they could not stay but was contacted by the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness that he violated the governor's executive order."

He rescinded the eviction notices with the understanding that the board would be working with city, state and county officials to find a solution. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's office said there will be a city and county staff briefing on Friday to explore other possible solutions.

Hennepin County said it deployed its Health Care for the Homeless Team to the park, and they have a specific goal to help families get into shelters.