MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A homeless encampment has formed at a Minneapolis park after hundreds of people were evicted from the former Sheraton Hotel in Midtown just a few days ago, leaving many without anywhere else to live.
The people living in Powderhorn Park were set to be forced out again in the coming days, but that’s all changed after the community spoke up.
"I’ve never camped in my life until now... I didn’t even know how to set a tent up," said Andre Stigger, who is staying at Powderhorn Park.
Stigger had been staying at the Sheraton Hotel, which had been acting as a shelter, but things didn’t work out.
"There was chaos in the building. People were breaking into rooms and breaking into vending machines," he explained.
Then he learned about the tents being set up at the park for those evicted from the hotel organized by community advocates and volunteers.
"There is nowhere for homeless people to go so a lot of the voices of the streets, the programs got together and decided that Powderhorn Park would be a great location to put up tents and have the homeless at least lay their heads," explained Michelle Smith, a community advocate for the homeless.
Word of the encampment reached the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the superintendent ordered that notifications be handed out by park police Friday morning for the tents to be vacated within 72 hours -- something advocates and residents quickly spoke out against.
"[They were] moved around, pushed around, in and out of shelters, in and out of hotels, and then have to come here and sleep on the ground in a tent," said Smith. "It's a little too much but then to say you have to leave here too, enough is enough."
A short time later, the board rescinded the notifications and said the encampment could stay for now. Superintendent Al Bangoura issued a statement reading in part: "I had hoped to use the next 72 hours to work with local leaders and local agencies to find the resources and connect people to the housing, shelter and services they need, but now recognize that 72 hours is not enough time.”
And while it’s not clear what comes next – or how long the camp will be here – the hope is that it leads to something more secure.
"That's all I want to do," said Stigger, "is have a normal life and someplace to stay."
The state is also aware of what’s happening in the park. We heard from the Interagency Council on Homelessness that said their team is working with local government and nonprofits to respond to the situation including finding affordable housing solutions.
“We continue to monitor the growing encampment at Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis. Our team is working with local government and nonprofits to respond to this unfolding situation.
"This encampment is one of many examples of what happens when there is not enough affordable housing for people who need it, which is why the Walz-Flanagan administration is seeking legislative support to significantly increase investments in housing. When communities invest in housing, everyone including families and individuals experiencing homelessness have an opportunity to thrive,” - Eric I. Grumdahl, Deputy Director, Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness.
"The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is rescinding its notifications issued this morning for those experiencing homelessness who recently set up in parks. The MPRB believes everyone experiencing unsheltered homelessness is vulnerable and deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. I had hoped to use the next 72 hours to work with local leaders and local agencies to find the resources and connect people to the housing, shelter and services they need, but now recognize that 72 hours is not enough time. Encampments represent a serious health and safety risk – particularly for those staying within the encampment – and do not represent a dignified form of shelter. I am committed to working with the community, local leaders and the MN Interagency Council on Homelessness on a solution." - Superintendent Al Bangoura.