MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - About 150 people were evicted Thursday from the Nenookaasi homeless encampment, despite community protests.
The Nenookaasi camp has occupied a vacant city lot in the East Phillips Neighborhood since August but around noon on Jan. 4, city workers and police began the process of dismantling the makeshift community.
It was a difficult day for a lot of people at the camp, but the residents cooperated with the police and spent several hours breaking things down and clearing out. Wood stoves, yurts, and tents all came down under the watchful eyes of Minneapolis police enforcing an eviction notice at Camp Nenookaasi.
A small fire slowed the move out temporarily, but residents and volunteers made steady progress.
There were plans to close the encampment twice in December, which were postponed. Some residents filed a lawsuit against Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey earlier this week in an attempt to halt the eviction, but a federal judge denied their request on Jan. 3, 2024, allowing the city to move forward with the clearing.
City officials say a number of services will be offered to those displaced, including storage, shelter, mental health resources and health care. And while camp organizers oppose the eviction, they say their goal is for things to stay peaceful.
But even with extra help from shelters, Minneapolis and Hennepin County don’t have enough beds for dozens of Nenookaasi’s former residents.
"People are anxious. People are nervous already, you know, and have been very on edge," said camp organizer Christin Crabtree. "We want it to be as peaceful and as calm as we possibly can for the well-being of the people that live there. Right. So the purpose and goal is to keep things calm, to de-escalate, to provide as much care as we can throughout the process."
The city continues to cite public health and safety as reasons for closing the camp, including the deadly shooting last month. They said three people have died there in four months, and they’ve gotten more than one hundred 911 calls.
But advocates for the mostly Indigenous people who live here say shelters are not a solution.
"We feel forgotten, you know?" said a departing resident named Marissa. "We are still humans, too, you know?"
More than 100 Camp Nenookaasj residents had already moved on to shelter spaces before Thursday. But on the final day, some of the 150 or so who remained said they hadn’t gotten the help they were promised as an incentive to leave.
"I was supposed to sign for my lease today for my apartment, and I’ve been waiting in my tent all day and my worker didn’t show up to bring me to my appointment," Marissa said.
The majority of them simply moved to a new encampment a few blocks away with new yurts already assembled. The neighbors who supported them called it unnecessary and harmful.
"The way encampments have been cleared in the neighborhood and the city in recent years has further destabilized and degraded those living in encampments and has merely shifted challenges," said Latasha Jennings of Leg Everyone Advance with Dignity and the Waite House across the street from the former Camp Nenookaasi.
Dozens of the camp’s residents took up offers to move into temporary shelters and a couple told FOX 9 they were seriously considering getting into treatment after having some structure in their lives for the months they stayed at the camp.
City of Minneapolis issues update on eviction
Around 5 p.m., the City of Minneapolis said a new Indigenous-led community center would replace the encampment.
"After the encampment is closed, this land will be used for an important, Indigenous-led center for our community members. The Indigenous Peoples Task Force (IPTF) has a redevelopment agreement with the City for the site to construct the Mikwanedun Audisookon Art and Wellness Center and is planning to complete the purchase in February. Pre-development activity will start on the site soon," a city spokesperson writes.
As for the closure, the city says work will continue into Friday, as the city hopes to maintain a peaceful environment to clear the camp.
At the same time, officials say an additional 19 encampment residents were placed into a shelter.
Working with the county, state, and Salvation Army, the city says an additional 90 beds were added to the shelter system this week.