St. Paul officials peacefully clear out encampment of about 70 near Cathedral Hill

A "Notice to Vacate" sign sits at a park near Cathedral Hill in St. Paul. Thursday was the last day for the encampment's nearly 70 residents to move out.

An encampment near Cathedral Hill in St. Paul was cleared out and cleaned up Thursday as officials say it became too big and unsafe.

About 70 people lived in the encampment.

“The topography of these sites results in unsanitary conditions including significant amounts of trash, used needles, food and human waste,” said Ricardo Cervantes, of the department of Safety and Inspections for the city of St. Paul. “There have been threats to the security and safety to those living within this encampments including being targeted by drug dealers as well as to nearby residents.”

It was a peaceful process Thursday, with outreach workers, parks employees, police and emergency management on hand, but one man refused to leave.

“In order for me to get stabilized and continue down the path I planned on, I need a place to sleep,” said Alfredo, who is experiencing homelessness.

He says he has an IT degree and valuable skills, but he can only work part time due to some mental health issues, for which he is medicated. To find a job, he says he needs more stability than a shelter can provide.

“Down at the shelter, you get stuck in this ring where you go to the shelter, you get kicked out by 9 or 9:30,” he said.

By late afternoon, the city of St. Paul had lined Alfredo up with temporary but stable housing that will put him on a path to a permanent and affordable place to live. A hopeful ending to a situation everyone admits is difficult.

“These are people experiencing all kinds of different trauma, experiencing all kinds of barriers and challenges,” said Cervantes. “It is difficult for us to make this decision and have to move folks again. Every time folks have to move it kind of adds to that trauma.”