St. Paul businesses sue city over day shelter, rise in crime

A group of St. Paul businesses along West 7th Street have filed a lawsuit blaming a day shelter - which they say shouldn’t be allowed in the area - saying it has created a spike in crime.

Along West 7th Street, the complaints from businesses and residents have grown for months, saying that ever since the day shelter called "Freedom House" opened in a former St. Paul fire station in late 2020, there have been major problems.

A lawsuit filed against the city late Friday, on behalf of six St. Paul businesses and one resident, lists 105 separate incidents including open drug use, piles of trash, used syringes, a knife fight, an employee assault, broken windows, and graffiti.

The city opened "Freedom House," using emergency powers, to help with a quickly growing population of people experiencing homelessness that skyrocketed during the pandemic.

The lawsuit now challenges that, saying the temporary authority is over and the city is violating their own zoning laws. The suit argues a zoning variance is not appropriate.

The lawsuit also cites St. Paul police data that serious crimes near Freedom House rose 36 percent and quality of life crimes by 78 percent in the first five months of this year.