Transition slow, but smooth from Minneapolis homeless camp to temporary center

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Two dozen people are now making the Navigation Center their new, temporary home. The transition from the Hiawatha homeless encampment to the center is ongoing with more people expected to move in by the end of the day Thursday.  

The move is the result of a team of city and tribal leaders, but it’s being called a native-led process. The transition from the camp to the center is slow, but so far it’s being called smooth and successful.

Work is still underway to get everything ready. So far, just one of the large pods is ready for occupancy. Twenty-four people are living in the pod with just over ten more expected to join them.  

“I think we are hopefully setting a precedent right now where people who are experiencing homelessness are not seen as criminals, they are not seen as invisible, they are embraced by our entire community,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.

Between Red Lake and Hennepin County, about 140 people have moved from the tent camp to housing. It’s unclear how many remain, but leaders say there is room for everyone at the Navigation Center if they choose to come. Tribal leaders do not want to force anyone to go, but they cannot stay at the camp.

“It’s really important that we recognize that that site is not safe and the tribal leaders recognize that, so our commitment as tribes, not just Red Lake, but all the tribes is to send our people out there and get them to move,” said Sam Strong of Red Lake Nation.

There is a drug problem with many at the current encampment. The new Navigation Center will be a “low barrier” set up. Users can come in while under the influence, but they cannot actually use while inside the fence. There will be security, although it’s unclear the role security or police will actually play.

“We are using a ‘housing first’ approach,” said Mayor Frey. “No, we will not have drug use on site, but we will not be turning away people and having them take a test before admittance.”

There will be a lot of services at the center, including mental health, drug treatment, showers and three meals a day. There is no hard deadline to have the tent encampment cleared out.