The City of Minneapolis cleared an encampment at the vacant Wells Fargo site along Nicollet Avenue and 31st Street and solidified the fencing around the Kmart site late last week.
In coordination with the City, Wells Fargo added fencing along its property last week. Kmart is now City property and the City added additional fencing at the Kmart site a block north of Wells Fargo.
When MnDOT cleared an encampment under the nearby I-35W underpass earlier this month, many people moved to the Wells Fargo site. MnDOT also erected fences at the 31st Street underpass this month. Over the last few months, the concrete barriers MnDOT placed there to keep people from sprawling out, became silos for people’s belongings after MnDOT officials cleared an encampment there in December 2022. The new fence disallows people from entering the area entirely.
Various iterations of encampments and groups of people gathering have cycled through the Kmart site over the last two years. The City has added more and more fencing to the site as USPS moved out of the Kmart building and the SuperValu building was demolished. On Monday, a few people sat under the trees along 1st Avenue, right against the new fencing. A small strip of grass remained accessible.
“Encampments are prohibited by City ordinance as they impact community livability, public health, life-safety as well as the external impact on neighbors and business owners,” Blair Loose with Regulatory Services said.
The Kmart site is currently a City-owned development property as part of the New Nicollet Redevelopment. The City’s Community Planning & Economic Development department coordinated the site’s closure, debris removal, and fencing.
In an article by Susan Du of the Star Tribune, the Wells Fargo and I-35W encampments clearances were cited as part of a brief resurgence of Wall of Forgotten Natives encampment. MnDOT cleared that encampment late last week as well.
Critics of the encampment sweeps argue that the City continues to force people out of encampments, without anywhere for them to go.
When asked about the possibility of people moving to another outdoor location after the Wells Fargo encampment sweep, Loose responded,
“The City of Minneapolis facilitates encampment closures with the Homeless Response Team connecting unsheltered individuals to service providers. Hennepin County oversees social services including shelters and temporary housing options in the county. We make a conscientious effort to confirm shelter availability as one of the considerations when making the decision to close an encampment. The environmental considerations are incorporated in the Operational Guide to the City’s Response to Homeless Encampments available on the City of Minneapolis website.”