The Potluck

Parks commissioner: There needs to be a plan before displacing homeless at Powderhorn

By: - July 1, 2020 1:56 pm

Powderhorn Park. Drone photo by Rob Levine/Minnesota Reformer.

A Minneapolis park board commissioner said today he’ll vote against a measure that would evict most of the estimated 600 people living in tents at Powderhorn Park.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will consider eliminating all but 10 tents per city park, so most of the estimated 400 tents pitched in two separate Powderhorn encampments would have to come down by Sept. 1. 

This follows an earlier resolution passed in June allowing homeless people to seek refuge on parkland.

Commissioner AK Hassan, who said he knows what it’s like not to have a home, said there must be a plan in place before passing such a resolution. He said he recognizes tenting in city parks is not a “safe, dignified or sustainable” solution, but the city can’t continue moving around the people experiencing homelessness.

“While we cannot provide housing, we must recognize the humanity of our neighbors who are struggling in the midst of a housing crisis, pandemic and a very real struggle for civil rights,” said Hassan, who is also a candidate for City Council. “The protests we are seeing on the streets for George Floyd are not separate from the advocacy for sanctuary space at Powderhorn Park.”

Homeless people began living in tents at about 30 Minneapolis parks during the pandemic and the Floyd unrest. Some were bused to Powderhorn after being displaced from temporary shelter at a vacant Sheraton hotel.

Hassan said the call for an end to police brutality that kills Black and brown people at a higher rate is the same struggle that calls for the housing for “our indigent brothers and sisters at Powderhorn Park.”

Hassan said the resolution is being brought under pressure from the city, county and state officials, and he called on Gov. Tim Walz to come to the tent city and address the issue and perhaps use federal pandemic relief money to help.

The Park Board initially cited Walz’s emergency order preventing the tent cities’ removal except in certain cases. But during a Saturday meeting, the Walz administration clarified that local jurisdictions have sole responsibility for determining the extent of encampments allowed, according to Park Board documents.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.