Former Sheraton turned homeless sanctuary closing up

    Residents of a former Sheraton hotel that was turned into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness moved out after the owner evicted them. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

    Activists and volunteers who took over a former Sheraton hotel in Minneapolis and turned it into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness ended the experiment at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

    “It is clear that the need for emergency housing cannot be sustainably supported by volunteers. Therefore we are ending the mutual aid component of the work of the sanctuary hotel,” reads a Facebook post.

    Volunteers scrambled to find residents other shelter or book hotel rooms with donated funds, but they ran into barriers because many residents did not have credit cards or IDs, which hotels require.

    The lofty experiment began during the recent unrest surrounding the demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd. Jay Patel, the owner of the former Sheraton near Lake Street, allowed the activists to move into the hotel rather than risk arson, as fires swept through the neighborhood.

    The now former residents say plumbling problems have emerged, the rooms have been trashed, TVs and mini refrigerators stolen.

    Tyree Jackson had been couch surfing before he moved into the hotel for a week, but he said he was moving out Wednesday because it was becoming unsafe.

    “There’s going to be a lot of illegal activity in there,” he said.

    The activists and volunteers hoped a nonprofit or government agency would help them turn the facility into permanent housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness. They had no expertise in running a shelter or social service agency.

    The shelter became chaotic and exceeded capacity. Patel evicted the residents, activists and volunteers Tuesday after paramedics were called to treat an overdose.

    Jackson lamented that the operation wasn’t run better. “There should have been more control. Real security guards up in here.”

    He said he did not know where he would go now.

    Max Nesterak
    Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.