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The Cycle of Minnesota Homelessness

Each summer Tent encampments fill unoccupied areas in the Twin Cities. Each winter we see the people in those encampments endure displacement yet again. Year after year, we, us, our community, we are stuck in this cycle together until we find a solution.

Minneapolis’ cost of living is well above the national average, requiring at least $55,476 annually to live comfortably. Yet, the average annual income for a Black family in Minnesota is 38,178, as of 2020. This is less than half the amount of their white counterparts, ranking at an average of $84,459, which is above the average cost of living. Single-parent family homes make up over 60% of Black family homes, but even assuming the annual average for a Black family was based on single parent homes, double that–in the case that both parents were making the annual average, would still be less than the average annual income compared to their white counterparts.

This means even a fully employed person of color doing “all the right things” can still struggle due to economic equities. This reality is a harsh one. One that supports the widening economic disparities, not just in Minnesota but nationally. But since the pandemic, the Twin Cities’ homelessness issue has continued to show up as a growing issue. Particularly in neighborhoods home to the inner city’s communities of color.

BLCK Press Founder Georgia Fort requested for an interview with the City of Minneapolis. The city’s media relations coordinator, Sarah Mckenzie, declined the request.

Although the interview was declined, Mckenzie did send a statement. It included information about how the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center has conducted a plan to support the homeless issue by keeping in contact with those in the encampments along Minneapolis, and acting as a resource for housing, food, treatment, and long-term solutions. As we know, every winter encampments are taken down.

Sources say City, County, and the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors are implementing a strategy to identify safer housing options for people staying in the encampment. The City has yet to clarify how the City was proceeding on their beliefs around the homeless encampments, which were shared with Georgia Fort via email.

Everyone experiencing unsheltered homelessness is vulnerable and deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. – Sarah Mckenzie

How will this winter be different than the past, in which encampments were taken down? Where will they go?

Do we not all have a collective responsibility to create a sustainable solution to break this traumatic and inhumane cycle? The city has assumed responsibility for keeping the Cedar/Franklin encampment clean as we saw Monday afternoon (video below) when city workers were there providing waste management services. Depending on who owns the land that the encampment is on we’ve seen county or state agencies will provide those services as well.

I lived briefly in Los Angeles, and one thing I remember vividly is the homeless population existing primarily in low income neighborhoods. This is where they stood, slept, and walked because they would be pushed out of higher-income neighborhoods through circumstances. It was a vicious cycle to watch, as crime typically operated in the communities the homeless were left as a last resort–making it an unsafe situation for them as well. Especially given the fact that prolonged homelessness has been scientifically proven to create long-term mental health issues, amongst other things.

Complaint calls to the police, city-led implements such as placing sharp edges on the floors where corners exist and having the public benches tilted so no one could sleep on them, these are the realities faced by the homeless looking to rest their heads. Where do they go when they are pushed out time and time again? And not just physically, but mentally and spiritually? How can we trust that this time they will receive adequate help?

I understand people wanting their neighborhoods to be safe and clean. The City has the ball of making this possible for housed civilians 

without disposing vulnerable human beings, in their hands. We are just asking how and when. Don’t we want safety and cleanliness for people whose circumstances resulted in lack of stability, as well? The impact it must have on an individual to one, live without housing security; but to attempt to create one with their limited resources and be removed from that, too. Do we all know how that feels? There are available shelters, but do the shelters act as a temporary bandage or do they guide, support, and heal beyond homelessness? Are those that lay their heads on shelter beds waking up with the option of what’s next?

Yes, we are a working economy and money does make the world circulate in modern times, but does that compromise our care for human lives beyond our expectations? Does a tent offend our own circumstances, or is it we truly desire to live a life where we don’t have to fight to live, as well? Injustices often reflect each other. If all lives matter, does that go beyond race and extend to status and vulnerability? Because summer is almost over. The tents will soon not matter, as they will no longer be sustainable, but the lives sustained in them will. When nowhere outside feels comfortable because it’s brutally cold and people are sick, will their safety be ensured?

When the encampments are closed again this winter how will the people in them be connected to sustainable resources? Since the the City declined to answer our questions, we are left with concern. Why is there still a lack of transparency with their plans? Is the closure of encampments really with the betterment of the homelessness crisis in mind, or economic peace?

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