A pause on clearing homeless encampments? [Updated]

A Minneapolis city council member proposes to halt the clearing of homeless encampments through April 30, 2023. KSTP-TV reports that Aisha Chughtai will propose a “temporary” halt that would last more than six months.

[Update: At the meeting, city attorneys told the council that it lacks the authority to impose a moratorium. City workers are enforcing city ordinances in clearing the camps, so the council would need to change the underlying law. In the event, Chughtai’s motion did not pass.]

The latest proposal arises from the controversial clearing of a north Minneapolis encampment located on city property earlier this month. We had visited the camp last spring and shot some video of the site.

The clearing of the camp prompted protests at city meetings and a brief encampment in front of City Hall itself. KSTP-5 reports,

The city of Minneapolis did eventually clear the encampment at City Hall, and in a statement city officials told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that 11 people living at that camp agreed to move into long-term housing at the Avivo Village facility in the North Loop.

A different proposal expected to be made Thursday grants another $1.2 million in federal CARES Act money to Avivo Village for its operating costs.

The Avivo Village site is a indoor shelter filled with “tiny homes.” Here is a screenshot from a video describing the facility,


Each homeless person gets a private small room, with access to the common areas (not shown above). The facility is designed to house 100 persons, and opened in December 2020. As the picture suggests, the shelter is built inside a former warehouse.

WCCO-TV reports,

A former resident told WCCO he felt safer living on the street. But the nonprofit says their model is working.

Tony Ealy says waking up at Avivo Village to police responding to 911 calls for overdoses and other disturbances was harder than living unhoused.

“It’s just a place where you eat and get off the street and go somewhere and just get high,” Ealy said.

WCCO reports that the police have responded to the facility more than 200 times since March 2021, mostly for overdoses. The facility reports no fatalities, so far.

The city has put in $3.6 million into the facility. Another $1.2 million would bring the total to $4.8 million. That’s $48,000 per room.

[Update: The city approved the additional funding yesterday.]

If $48,000 per room seems like a lot of money, consider that the City of San Francisco is spending $60,000 per tent, per year, to house the homeless outdoors at six locations around the city.

If you think $60,000 for a tent is expensive, the City of San Francisco plans on spending $1.7 million to construct a single public toilet in the city. The New York Post quotes a city official,

While this isn’t the cheapest way to build, it reflects San Francisco’s values.

No doubt.