Yesterday in a voice vote done over the shouts of protestors, the Business, Inspections, Housing & Zoning Committee approved funding for homelessness programs, including street outreach and Avivo Village housing. The funding is a continuation of a joint partnership between the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County.
Numerous people, including residents of the encampments, showed up in protest of the recent encampment sweeps. In recent weeks, Minneapolis police cleared encampments in Near North and South Minneapolis. Residents at the camps are still trying to track down their belongings cleared from the sites.
During the committee meeting, Ward 7 Councilmember and committee chair Lisa Goodman announced the committee would hear from three constituents after hearing from the planned staff presentation. Goodman explained she could not spontaneously hold a public hearing because other people would be “precluded from speaking.”
The city’s Director of Housing Policy and Development, Elfric Porte, presented recommendations for the joint city and county funding that the committee was voting on. After Porte’s presentation, committee members asked him questions about how the funding is connected to encampments.
In multiple instances, Porte answered questions from Councilmembers Aisha Chughtai and Jason Chavez by stating the purpose of his attendance was to speak to the recommendations and not specific situations regarding the encampments.
Porte said that the timing of recent encampment clearings and the presentation to the committee are “not interrelated.” He recalled that the department’s report was uploaded to the city’s LIMS site prior to the encampment closings.
Towards the end of the committee’s questions for Porte, people attending the meeting started vocally reacting to Porte’s answers. When Goodman opened up the meeting to hear from specific people, people rushed to the microphone and insisted on speaking as a group.
Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality responded to the committee’s vote to approve funding for homelessness resources.
“It’s a good thing you are going to apply funding for these services,” Gross said. “But they are not the answer. We cannot have people wandering the streets, sleeping on sidewalks, in unsafe conditions while they wait a year or longer for these services.”
Gross spoke at length about the Minneapolis Police Department’s encampment clearings.
“The Minneapolis police have got to be stopped,” Gross said. “What they are doing to these encampments is disgusting, it’s horrible. How do you go up to someone’s housing, the only housing they have.. and you want to slash the hell out of their tent?”
Multiple encampment residents spoke to the committee despite not being on the speakers list.
“There needs to be a change,” Angelique, a former resident of the Near North encampment, said to the committee. “Maybe the change could be, these people over here, thinking they know everything, maybe they could come down to Earth and speak and engage with people.” Angelique was referencing the city staff who walked past her outside of City Hall prior to the meeting.