Democrats on the Minneapolis City Council do not want to immediately clear a homeless encampment populated by American Indians despite other Indian groups saying it is crime-ridden and urging the city to clean it up.
The city is set to clear a major homeless encampment next week, but on Thursday, eight Democrats on the city council asked Mayor Jacob Frey to delay the cleanup until February, the Star Tribune reported.
The homeless encampment, known as Camp Nenookaasi, has about 180 people and was set up by American Indian women in September after the city cleaned up a different encampment.
City officials say the encampment must be cleared due to public safety and health concerns. Residents who live nearby have complained about crime.
Organizers, however, as well as some council members say the camp is more organized than a typical homeless encampment.
“This is more controlled,” Councilman Jamal Osman said at a press conference on Thursday. Osman’s Ward 6 includes the encampment.
“We haven’t had a lot of incidents,” Osman said. “There will be more safety concerns if these 180 people go to the surrounding streets.”
Earlier this week, dozens of supporters of the encampment showed up at City Hall during a public hearing to oppose the cleanup.
Meanwhile, American Indian groups have been demanding the city close the encampment for months.
One of those demanding a cleanup is Ryan Salmon, interim chair of Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, which includes more than more than 30 native organizations including the Indian Health Board.
“Not only are crimes being committed regularly, but they are also being hidden from police with threats of and physical acts of violence, to those who would normally report,” Salmon wrote this month in a letter to the city demanding the camp be “closed immediately.”
The mayor’s office said they are still assessing the decision to clean up the encampment next week.
“These decisions are informed by leading experts from multiple city departments, and prioritize the safety of the people both in the encampment and in the surrounding neighborhood,” said a spokeswoman for the mayor.
“We are also listening to Native leaders who, in this case, have been demanding the City take this action for months,” she said.
The council members who requested to delay the encampment cleanup until February also said they do not want to keep the camp open indefinitely. The goal is to house the people living there, they said.
Homelessness has been a growing problem in the U.S. since the pandemic.
Cities on the West Coast in particular have struggling with a growing homeless population as well as spiking drug use.