Evictions coming for St. Paul homeless camp

The homeless camp in Minneapolis has been getting the attention, but the one in St. Paul is going to be, perhaps, more indicative of what happens when authority meets the homeless around here.

St. Paul officials had previously suggested there won’t be forced evictions of the camp at the base of Cathedral Hill. Now it appears there are going to be forced evictions, courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“I don’t know either what the long-term answer to this is,” Kevin Gutknecht, the MnDOT spokesperson tells the Pioneer Press. “But we do believe that if we allow those folks to stay there, it’s not safe for them. It’s weather, it’s Minnesota, where were they last year at this time? … It just doesn’t seem like it’s right for them to stay there.”

There have already been three fires at the camp and officials are concerned that whatever is being used to heat the tents in the bitter cold of November will spark new blazes.

So the homeless have to go … where, exactly?

“The shelters are full. Their choices are either the (Metro Transit) trains or somewhere else outside. Should they just go to another neighborhood? Which one?” Monica Nilsson, a former chair of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, tells the Pioneer Press’ Tad Vezner. “I want people to be aware of this shell game with people’s lives.”

More than likely, another camp will sprout somewhere else in the city. There are dozens scattered throughout the metro.

“The encampment did bring some visibility to the general public,” Ramsey County Board Chair Jim McDonough told MPR’s Austen Macalus last month. “Certainly, it’s not always acknowledged or recognized or even understood how large our homeless population is.”

The shelters are all full in St. Paul. And in some cases, even if homeless people can get into a shelter, they’re separated from partners of the opposite sex, and they can’t bring their belongings inside.

The cops will move in to clear the camp on Thursday morning. The problem of homelessness will move somewhere else.

Related: Jerome Christenson: No more Zero Heroes (Winona Daily News)

  • MrE85
  • Guest

    Mpls paid $1.5 million to shelter 200.

    IF I had empty office space I’d be asking government if they want to keep folks warm and bring services to a stable location, then let them move inside where I have to heat anyway.

    Better to get paid for empty space to house homeless than to heat empty floors.

    Either that or start up the old county poor farms again.

  • Kassie

    We as a society have decided we are ok with there being homeless folks. Minneapolis residents are fighting against affordable housing, saying fourplexes aren’t welcome in most neighborhoods. We can’t choose to not build affordable housing, not fund mental and chemical health services, not fund services for vets and not build adequate shelters AND not allow homeless camps. Where are they supposed to go? It is safer together than by themselves.

    • The Resistance

      I’m assuming they could use their tax cut for housing. /s

    • Guest

      This used to be solved by having county poor farms

      • Jerry

        “At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
        “Are there no prisons?”
        “Plenty of prisons…”
        “And the Union workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
        “Both very busy, sir…”
        “Those who are badly off must go there.”
        “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
        “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

      • Kassie

        Poor farms/houses are just homeless shelters, but by a different name. We also used to have flop houses, skid row apartments, rooming houses and cheap hotels, most of which are now gone. In the 1940s we built tons of temporary, affordable housing for returning vets and their families, all of which had been torn down.

    • Kate Graham

      I agree. I’ll just add, though, that some of the concern about fourplexes is actually that they will drive up the cost of housing if real estate investors buy up properties and build upscale multiplexes. A lot of the single family homes in Minneapolis are cheaper than a condo would be. Housing density isn’t necessarily the solution to affordable housing. I’d urge people to look into community land trusts and housing cooperatives as a way to make housing more affordable.

  • KTFoley

    You’re right that strict segregation at the shelters means that some would have to separate from the person who is looking out for them, and that makes them feel less safe than they are now.

    When St Paul began locking down skyways at night because homeless people were coming in out of the cold, that told us everything we care to know about how the city views the issue: force them somewhere else, anywhere else, as long as it’s not here.