Transition from Minneapolis homeless encampment to Navigation Center begins Tuesday

Starting Tuesday, people will begin moving out of the homeless encampment in Minneapolis and moving into a temporary shelter called the Navigation Center. It’s a transition months in the making.

The goal is to provide safer and more secure living for the estimated 120 people that have been residing in the encampment. 

“This very invisible part of our population became very visible, not just to us in the native community, but to the broader community,” said Robert Lillagen of Metro Urban Indian Directors. “And that created a high level of concern and compassion, and an interest in doing something about this.”

The move will begin with roughly 10 residents of the encampment and from there organizers hope more will follow. However, Lillagen says they believe some are also discouraging others from leaving the encampment. 

“People need to move to the camp,” he said. “People should not be providing bad information. They should not be trying to disrupt an orderly transition into the Navigation Center.” 

At a community meeting on over the weekend, residents expressed concerns about drug use and security, which Lillagen says has come up a number of times. 

“What we’re trying to find is lower barrier housing and that may mean shifting attitudes toward drug use,” he said. “The model is harm reduction. So there may not be on-site drug use in lower barrier housing, but there would be a tolerance and acceptance in knowing that people that are staying there have used or are using drugs or alcohol.”

The Navigation Center will serve as a temporary shelter for the winter. Officials say they hope to then move residents to safe and secure housing. Lillagen hopes the transition will be fluid and organic he says, like the growth of the camp. 

“We have heard from the city, from the state that they don’t have an interest in physically removing people from the camp,” he said. “That there is less interest in sort of a hard close date in the camp as there in in giving the individuals the space and time work with each individual that doesn’t move to work on what the right decision is.”