Also known as “The Wall of Forgotten Natives,” the encampment along Hiawatha Avenue has attracted hundreds of people experiencing homelessness since this summer. Photo courtesy Chris Juhn

State grant secures beds for some encampment members

Updated: October 11, 2018 – 12:23 pm

Hennepin County will use a $214,000 state grant to place some members of a large encampment near Franklin & Hiawatha in supportive housing.

The funds will be used to create space for a dozen or more people at the former Kateri Residence in Whittier. The beds are reserved for American Indians with substance abuse disorders who are also experiencing homelessness.

“It’s not the total solution to the encampment, but it’s 12–16 additional beds of permanent capacity that are available to people in our community,” said Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who represents District 4 on the Hennepin County Board.

The state allocation, intended to cover operating costs, will continue beyond 2018 with cost-of-living adjustments. The source of the funds is the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Housing Support program.

St. Stephen’s Human Services previously operated Kateri as safe and sober housing for American Indian women. The nonprofit announced last year it would close the transitional housing program because of a shortfall in operating funds and the need for a better approach to treating the residents’ chemical dependency issues.

American Indian Community Development Corporation recently purchased the building at 2408 4th Ave. S. McLaughlin said AICDC was making “minor renovations” to the building, adding that it “should be ready within a couple weeks” to welcome new residents.

Jennifer DeCubellis, deputy county administrator in charge of human services, said the county continues to work at the encampment, attending to both the immediate needs of the hundreds of people living outdoors and working with the state and county to find a permanent housing solution for camp residents. DeCubellis noted that the county’s Health Care for the Homeless team was engaged at the site long before it drew widespread attention.

“This is the work the county does every day, and it’s just getting highlighted because of the media attention” on the encampment, she said.