Thursday marks deadline to clear out of St. Paul homeless encampment

Thursday marks the deadline to clear out of the tent encampment many have called home in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood.

So, on Wednesday, volunteers brought warm drinks, donuts and winter gear to the homeless encampment.  

“A lot of people don’t have nowhere to go. If they did, they wouldn’t be here; not a lot of people choose to be here - like me, I choose. A lot of people have nowhere to go,” said Randle Green who spends his nights at the encampment.

At its summer peak, St. Paul officials estimated about 60 people lived at the encampment. More recently, that number is believed to have dropped to just 10 to 15.

“It’s absolutely easier to provide. We can come out here, feed them, keep them warm for the winter. We can help them here. If they all split up, we can’t find them anymore,” said Stephanie Stuart, an advocate for the homeless.

Stuart is dreading what will happen Thursday morning after the City of St. Paul, Ramsey County and MnDOT announced everyone and everything must be out by 10 a.m., clearing the space tucked along Interstate 35E.

Officials insist this will not turn into a forceful evacuation, but instead, the goal is to work with the vulnerable population and connect them to the services they need. In fact, bulletins hanging on the highway fencing detail potential emergency housing options and transportation availability.

However, Stuart insists there just aren’t enough beds in the capital city to care for the homeless campers over the dangerous winter months, and she fears people will only stay out in the elements in less centralized locations.

“St. Paul, please let them stay. That’s what we need…it’s that desperate. It’s a matter of life and death at this point. If they go out, we won’t be able to help them and they will freeze,” she said.

In Minneapolis, a temporary Navigation Center is under construction and is expected to open in the coming weeks. A Minneapolis city official says until the center opens, there are no plans to close the encampment.