The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted unanimously Wednesday to significantly limit the number of homeless encampments in city parks following reports of assaults, robberies, and a shooting at these locations.
The board will designate certain parks for encampments and break up others. The board also limits the encampments to 20 parks, with no more than 25 tents allowed in each park. The resolution includes Powderhorn Park, which has seen its sprawling tent encampments become the site of violent incidents, including sexual assaults and a shooting, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“Everybody decided to write these folks off, and we tried to do the right thing. Lord knows I tried, the neighbors tried, volunteers tried,” said Commissioner Londel French. “But now we have a situation where people aren’t safe. And that bothers me.”
The vote came after an hours-long meeting in which residents spoke out against the encampments, arguing that they had become dangerous for residents, visitors and campers.
Park employees have also been threatened by some of the camp dwellers and are concerned for their own well being, the paper said. They've reportedly found hundreds of syringes at the encampments.
"Staff has expressed a grave concern for their safety," said Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Barrick. "The morale continues to be low, and these challenges are not helping it."
A resolution last month by park officials allowed homeless stay overnight in parks due to the growing Powderhorn encampments. The encampments have now spread to roughly 30 parks, although the number of tents at Powderhorn sites had decreased from roughly 560 last week to 310, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Many who initially migrated to Powderhorn Park were previously evicted by a hotel that volunteers turned into a shelter following the death of George Floyd in the city on May 25.
Board President Jono Cowgill said Powderhorn Park was "not sustainable." She said the resolution "clarifies our commitment to providing refuge and also provide[s] guidelines for park encampments."
"We have not wavered in our belief that the people who are living in park spaces right now need to be treated with dignity," Cowgill added. "The size of the encampment at Powderhorn Park is not sustainable and we need to provide guidance on park encampment design and facilitation that supports the health and safety of those currently living in the parks.”
It's not clear what parks would be designated for encampments or which ones will be disbanded.