Violent squatters gone, improvements coming, but Stevens Square still feels forgotten
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - A week after FOX 9 investigated violent and disgusting living conditions facing residents of a Minneapolis apartment building, residents say they feel safer because of changes made in response.
It’s a sign of the times at the Lonoke Apartments. A maintenance crew worked on the front door locks while an armed guard stood inside the building Thursday.
Just a week earlier, a FOX 9 crew struggled to get past squatters for interviews with frustrated residents. We eventually bore witness to human waste, drug paraphernalia, and threats of violence constantly hovering over their heads.
But now, with repairs underway and security on site, the same residents are hopeful.
"In the last couple of days I’ve seen a marked improvement in the safety and the cleanliness of the place where I’m living," said Lonoke resident Brenda Vonahsen.
The rest of the historic Stevens Square neighborhood may not feel as safe, especially after what they saw and heard just before midnight Wednesday night.
Surveillance video caught the sound of gunfire and then recorded an SUV crash across the street from the Lonoke. Minneapolis police say they believe they arrested one of the men who jumped out of the SUV and ran into the neighborhood.
The city of Minneapolis has often made big plans for 3rd Avenue, touting it as an Avenue of the Arts from downtown to the Institute of Art with the Lonoke right in the middle. But residents in the Stevens Square segment say the big projects never come, and what was happening at the Lonoke is commonplace.
"That is the experience of living in Stevens Square," said a resident who lives in another apartment building and asked not to be identified. "It’s the best people in Minneapolis, most friendly, most Minnesota nice people, and they deserve a little bit better than people coming in and spray-painting the inside of our building, breaking our stuff."
The city has taken note of the trouble. Police have responded to almost 90 calls for service at the Lonoke this year. They’re working with owners from Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative and officers escorted six squatters out of the building before security took over.
The owners installed new locks and said they’re parting ways with Premier Property Management. So residents think the good old days are coming back.
"Lonoke was a great place when I moved there," said Deborah McConniel. "I want it to be just as good as it was then, if not better."
Beacon pledged to make all the necessary repairs by the end of this month, and they have an early May deadline from the Housing Authority to make the fixes or risk losing their Section 8 funding.