This story was updated on December 21 to include a statement made by MnDOT.
Yesterday morning, an encampment under the 35W bridge on 31st Street was cleared by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
“They came early,” an encampment resident said as he stood among a pile of belongings. The encampment resident said the posted time for clearing out the camp was 9 a.m. but they showed up at 7 a.m.
A witness to the clearance said they saw workers moving encampment belongings across the street with wheelbarrows at around noon. The witness also said they saw roughly 20 propane tanks gathered together on the sidewalk. Unsheltered residents use propane tanks to fuel portable heaters to stay warm in their tents.
Cement barricades fill the sidewalk where the encampment was.
MnDOT cleared the encampment because the location had "begun to present significant health and safety concerns for people at the encampment and nearby residents, as well as blocking pedestrian access of the sidewalk."
The MnDOT Director of Communications and Public Engagement said they have "always been consistent that highway right-of-way is not a safe place for people to live, especially during the winter months and dangerously cold temperatures."
The statement continues, "MnDOT’s jurisdiction does not include housing or social services, so we are always coordinating with local and state partners to best support people experiencing homelessness. Individuals at this location were provided with advance notice that they would be asked to leave the site, information was provided about services and alternative shelter options, and we also offered secure storage options for people’s personal belongings." Details about the services offered are not known at this time.