Big changes at the camp – and that’s a good thing!

The new Minneapolis Navigation Center opened last week. Less than four months after Native American leaders requested a meeting with Mayor Frey to discuss the public health issues raised by the Franklin Hiawatha encampment our community has taken a giant step forward in tackling the challenges of housing and homelessness. It’s an incredible achievement.

It has not been easy. The road was bumpy at times but all parties put the health and safety of our homeless relatives front and center. We kept our collective shoulder to the wheel and accomplished much in a very short time.

With the Navigation Center open we are now working full time to move camp residents into the Center or other options that may be open to them. Housing specialists are on-site at the warming tent daily helping those that qualify move into apartments, group residential housing, or other, more permanent, housing. More than half of the current/recent camp residents have already moved to housing, shelter or the new Navigation Center. Outreach workers hope to move the other half this week. As I walked through the camp today and saw all the places where tents used to be it was undeniable: change for the better is happening.


The opening of the new Minneapolis Navigation Center is the final step in the process of housing the homeless residents of the encampment. This means some important and time sensitive changes are occurring, ones that affect the hundreds of volunteers who have cooked meals, donated tents and sleeping bags, cleaned the camp, and more. Your generosity was astounding and appreciated – but we must now ask that you understand and respect the fact that donations and volunteers are no longer needed as we transition from the encampment and to the Navigation Center.


The encampment itself is being cleaned by MnDOT and Public Works crews in real time as residents move out. (See photos below.) Well over 56 tons of discarded tents, blankets, bikes, clothing and other miscellany have already been removed from the encampment. Heavy equipment is being used so the camp is like a (de)construction zone. It is not safe for volunteers or onlookers hoping to snap some photos. Please respect the workers on-site and do not enter the encampment area.


As I mentioned above, over half of the camp residents have already moved into housing, shelter or the Navigation Center. We plan to move the rest of the camp residents this week. The HSA/warming tent will be coming down later this week. Please DO NOT bring donations of goods or food to the camp, warming tent or Navigation Center. Meals are being served in the warming tent and Navigation Center (for residents.) All meals are already scheduled and no more meal service is needed. We are actively distributing what donations are left and cannot accept anything more. The Navigation Center does not accept donations of any kind due to limited storage options.


I’m getting lots of emails and FB messages from folks that really want to volunteer or donate food or holiday gift bags, cookies or other items. These generous souls are inspired by the season to give to those in need and that is a beautiful thing. Please allow me to redirect you to make a gift to any of the Native-led non-profit agencies that are listed on our How To Donate page. Many of these agencies have been working with our homeless relatives for decades without seeking the limelight or public accolades – and they deserve your support. There are also other causes and shelters that could benefit from your financial support or donated goods.


Let me end this post by saying, simply, Thank you.

Over 900 of you have emailed through the website to say, “How can I help.”

Hundreds and hundreds of you have made donations of needed goods and supplies, money, or time.

Well over a hundred of you have prepared meals for camp residents.

You are lovely and amazing, one and all.

We could never have done this without you. Your generosity was essential to the effort to keep our homeless relatives warm, safe and fed. Thank you for the compassion and generosity you have shown to those struggling to survive without a place to call home.

A post script: After I first published this blog post I received a comment from someone that was very upset by it. So I am re-posting with this postscript: Please understand that the Navigation Center is not the solution to homelessness in Minneapolis – it is an important step in the long process of addressing the need for more low-income housing and more shelter space – and further addressing the economic realities that have caused so many to be unable to afford rent or a home to call their own. Know also that there are other shelters and non-profits that could benefit from your time and donation dollars. Finally, if you are interested in giving to Native-led non-profits please do click here.

For months you could not see this bridge from this vantage point within the encampment.

It was completely obscured by tents.

As campers move out tents come down and the area is cleaned immediately by MnDOT and Public Works.

It’s an ongoing, massive effort, happening in real time.

All the open ground you see here was covered by tents just one week ago –

every single square inch on both sides of the sidewalk.

Every empty space represents camp residents who have found housing or shelter.

Seeing this is very moving for those of us who have been working in the camp.

So much progress in just one week – incredible!

Big changes at the camp – and that’s a good thing!

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