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Help for Homeless at Minneapolis' Largest Encampment

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Lack of affordable housing, loss of employment and chronic health conditions are the three top reasons people are homeless in Minnesota. (blogs.mprnews.org)
Lack of affordable housing, loss of employment and chronic health conditions are the three top reasons people are homeless in Minnesota. (blogs.mprnews.org)
September 7, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The annual Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless Conference will be held in Duluth next week as Minneapolis responds to one of the largest homeless settlements the city has ever seen.

While homeless camps in many cities are quickly demolished by law enforcement officials, Minneapolis city leaders are trying a more humane approach. Right now, a coalition of city, county and American Indian agencies is providing housing assistance, medical care and other social services to camp dwellers.

Fatima Moore, director of public policy with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, says the response to the Minneapolis encampment has been encouraging, but notes homelessness is an epidemic that goes well beyond the city and state boundaries.

"There have been other homeless encampments that have emerged throughout the entire state,” says Moore. “Homelessness and housing instability is a need throughout the entire state of Minnesota, and there's actually a need just nationally as well."

Minneapolis officials want to clear the large encampment by the end of September, and Mayor Jacob Frey has pledged an effort to find housing for everyone before then.

The 28th annual Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless Conference will be held at the Duluth Convention center beginning on September 13.

The homelessness conference will focus on solutions that are working in other Minnesota communities or around the country. Moore says society needs to abandon the notion that those living on streets are homeless by choice, and embrace a helping model rather than punishing those who find themselves homeless.

"We are completely opposed to just sort of putting a Band-Aid over homelessness issues, because if you just go ahead and do a sweep of an area, it essentially makes it seems like there isn't an issue at all, when there are deep-rooted reasons behind why people are experiencing homelessness," says Moore.

Statistics show that on any given night in the U.S., more than half a million people experience homelessness.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN