Skip to main content

Minneapolis Housing Policy Coordinator letter to city council on not closing encampment

February 25, 2021
Body paragraph

Presented without comment for now, except that shelters are not a solution and it took massive pressure to get the city to talk to residents.  To support the residents working to find more permanent housing please donate.

From: Topinka, Katie J <>
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2021 8:16 AM
Subject: Encampment Update

Council President, Council Vice President and Council Members,

I know that several of your offices have received inquiries about the Near North encampment, so I am providing an update to all Council offices:

Yesterday, City leaders and outreach teams met with people staying at the encampment located near 2nd and Girard Avenues N.  The meeting was in response to a direct request from those living at the encampment. The residents of the encampment are actively working to find more permanent housing and they requested more time to complete this process. As a result of this conversation we will not close the encampment as planned this Friday.  We want to support the residents’ effort and think it reasonable to provide them more time to secure housing or shelter, especially considering that Avivo Village shelter will expand occupancy to 100 people in early March.  We have asked outreach teams to continue to engage with the residents of the encampment. We do not have a firm timeline or determination of a specific closure date, although we will have to close it at some point in the near future because the contaminated soil conditions may harm people with prolonged exposure.

The City’s goal is for everyone to be stably housed. We spend significant resources on affordable housing each year, and last year joined our partners to invest $55 million in homelessness response to expand emergency shelter, low-barrier housing and protective housing for people experiencing homelessness, as well as enhance existing shelters and expand support services, rapid rehousing, and street outreach. The City’s share of these investments was $13.4 million. These partnerships, in combination with a new City emergency shelter ordinance adopted in December, and extensive technical assistance provided by City staff, resulted in four new emergency shelters that opened in late 2020, and another 36-bed facility starting construction. One of the facilities – Avivo Village – opened initially at the end of December and will be open to full capacity (100 units) in March.

We do not believe it is safe for anyone to stay outdoors and encourage all of our unsheltered neighbors to engage with outreach providers and find shelter whenever possible. Hennepin County, along with nonprofit shelter providers, have taken tremendous measures to ensure that the shelter system remains safe during the pandemic. Shelter beds remain available and can be reserved by calling Adult Shelter Connect at 612-248-2350.

Thank you and please contact me with any questions.

Katie Topinka
Housing Policy Coordinator
Pronouns: she/her/hers

City of Minneapolis – Community Planning and Economic Development

505 4th Ave S #320
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Office: 612-673-5068
Cell: 612-364-4657



Lightly edited, here is the main content of one e-mail to a city council member's office seeking to follow up on the letter from the housing policy coordinator on Near North camp:

The raising of contaminated soil as a concern again—after the encampment moved across the street to land *without* reports of significant contamination—is disturbing for several reasons.

As it has been raised as a rationale for why the encampment itself is a problem—rather than the failure of the city, county, and state to provide housing options… enticing? …enough to get people to move out from indoors, in the winter, in Minnesota, i ask that city council request more detailed information, updated soil samples, etc as to the actual danger there. (I suspect CPED would be protecting people from much more dangerous pollution by trying to shut down vehicular traffic within city limits, but i guess that's beside the point for now.)

Furthermore, Near North camp is remarkably well organized and their slight visibility can help the many, many more houseless people (current and future) who would have almost no hope of reaching negotiations with any part of the city or this level of attention of city council.  I will be severely disappointed if city council members' involvement ends up making (some of) the residents trust the city and the city ends up burning them all.

Related, perhaps:

Three days ago a large amount of furniture and other things, largely in good condition, were dumped behind an abandoned house near where i live— definitely seems like the possessions of a family thrown out by some evil landlord. Today city workers threw it all into a trash truck with compactor running. Any thoughts on interrupting any step of this process (in the future)? There should be investigators figuring out whose possessions they were, how this crime of dispossession happened, some family evidently needs housing, and none of this should have been destroyed even if it couldn't be restored to the people who were using it.

I went out and asked the public works people cleaning up after some landlord and destroying perfectly good property if they did investigations on this sort of thing; they said "sometimes".  City council members using the platform of their offices and personal reach to rally direct defense for the camp seems, apparently, to be too much to ask, but building up a network of people interested in tracking down bad landlords while helping redistribute dumped furniture might be possible?

That's probably a silly idea. But please do not forget to think about how you can help build up social movements outside of government at least as much as you are roped into de-escalating them.

And i repeat my questions about what a city office must do, legally and administratively inside city government, to enlist other departments, specifically Public Works and the Police Department, in doing something they ask.