MPD 2-PAC Dec. Report. The meeting opened at 6:35 on 12/12/22 with 15 attenders. Lt. Christie Nelson and P.O. Holly Ihrke, presenters.
Lt. Nelson: News stories of camp closings in Minneapolis in 2020-21 led to a stronger reliance on social agencies, some are funded by the city, some are county agencies, and others are totally independent NPOs. The agencies share a common goal: to help homeless people find a bridge to a safer life.
It’s a difficult issue. These camping spaces are posted, “No Trespassing” meaning it’s a crime to be there in the first place. The compromise is that the camps are not closed without warning, usually two weeks in advance.
Additionally, social service workers begin working in camps as soon as they know about them. They also see the two-week notice when it’s put up. At that time, the MPD provides perimeter security to ensure that outsiders don’t interfere with the outreach staff while they are trying to provide support. Lt. Nelson has gone into camps with the social workers to deliver the message, “You’re not going to jail, but we need you to accept the services that the social workers are offering you.”
Minneapolis services includes several agencies that only work with homeless people. They are in these camps every day, making connections offering services, shelter, and more. We also have non-profit independent outreach organizations such as AVIVO, AICDC*, St. Stephen’s, and more side by side with the City and County staff.
MPD understands that homelessness starts many ways: social issues, addiction issues, mental health, bad luck, accident, and more. Outreach service workers have extensive training and resources to provide care; with that training, they can do the work more effectively than most police officers can.
People’s property is another issue that gets a lot of press. If people in the camps want to keep their property, the MPD will take care of their belongings for them. We catalog it and hold it in a secure site in NE Minneapolis. It will be waiting for them when they can pick it up. We agree they have a right to their own property.
Before a decision is made to close a camp, the topic is discussed at meeting of representatives from CPED,*** the City Attorney’s Office, City Inspections, MNDOT, Park Police, and people from other organizations and departments, like Veterans service organizations, and including the MPD. The MPD never makes this decision on its own. Meetings are held every two weeks.
P.O. Ihrke added that a camp closure is “orchestrated” by the land owners. The camp closure behind Target near Lake Street was requested by Metro Transit which owns the land, set the calendar, and more — Metro Transit PD did the enforcement for that closure.
Hennepin County has a division that deals with housing for the unsheltered [https://www.hennepin.us/coordinated-entry] They meet bi-monthly. Various grassroot organizations also help with housing. These teams go out to the camps and can create referrals to housing on the spot. These teams are committed to finding shelter for campers.
People who are unsheltered have a higher priority for housing, including those who’ve been staying in a shelter for two weeks, or living in their car. Some people use transit for shelter, which let to Metro Transit to form its own team. They have shelter vouchers to hand out [See Homelessness Action Team]**
Hennepin County offers professional health care for anyone who is homeless.**** Teams of licensed nurse practitioners and doctors offer medical care in the camps. When someone needs care beyond what can be provided in the camp, the team calls a Med Cab to transport the patient to an appropriate facility.
Some folks need more intensive social care or have different needs. Case managers can issue cell phones so that people can be in contact with their parole or probation officers, make appointments and other necessary connections. [EQ: during the Q&A, a visitor to the Quarry camp remarked that many people there have phones.]
Also, HCAO and Attorneys from several cities have created a system that will reduce judicial barriers for these people if a pending case would stop a landlord from renting to them. See https://www.hennepin.us/residents/human-services/unsheltered-homelessness
Ihrke: Also, as a closure date is posted, the service providers and planners are amping up services. The extra attention brought the Lake Street camp from some 20 tents to fewer than 10 when the camp was closed. Counselors remind people there are offices where people can get a referral for housing. [Side note: some of the counselors working on referrals have been homeless themselves; they do understand.]
It’s important that every step of this procedure is documented. Lt. Nelson pointed out that no matter where the camp is located, the process to close it is the same. The process is equitable.
**The HAT program was created by Lt Mario Roberto who was a paramedic for 20 years before he joined the MTPD. Read https://courtwatch2pac.com/2019/07/28/july-2-pac-transit-police/ where he told the complete story of what, why and how this program began.
*** Community Planning & Economic Development (CPED) https://www2.minneapolismn.gov/government/departments/cped/
EQ: the complex history of permitted and unpermitted camps for homeless people in Minneapolis is traced in a Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Minneapolis_park_encampments The additional reading notes that follow the footnotes are enlightening.