Hiawatha homeless camp reveals systemic problems

Kristian Evans, Senior News Editor

The city of Minneapolis is moving quickly in an attempt to address problems developing in a large camp of individuals struggling with homelessness.

The camp located near Hiawatha and Cedar avenue, just blocks from campus, has seen a steady growth of individuals seeking shelter and the security of a larger group.

Two recent deaths have been linked to the camp as reported by the “Star Tribune.” The deaths of 26-year-old Alissa Rose Skipintheday and 20-year-old Wade Redmond have both been associated with the camp. Skipintheday reportedly died from an asthma attack while Redmond’s cause of death has not been made public.

The City Council finds itself trying to address the issue. In a 7-5 vote on Sept. 20, the council declared a site at 2600 Minnehaha Ave as the best option for relocation. That has raised concerns from two charter schools who worry about the impact of moving a camp within such close proximity of schools.

One day after that vote, the council voted unanimously to delay a decision to relocate the camp and has subsequently seen new opportunities emerge as to where to relocate the group. Then, late Wednesday afternoon the “Star Tribune” reported that the council approved relocating the camp to a site owned by the Red Lake Nation located a few blocks east of the camp; this was the plan supported by Mayor Frey. This site will not be ready until Dec., as three buildings must be demolished, per the report.

The involvement of Native American tribes highlights an aspect of the story lost in the focus is of the relocation effort: the fact that a large portion of those who populate the camp are indigenous. Professor Eric Buffalohead, chair of the American Indian Studies Department, says this is not a new problem.

“I don’t feel as though Minneapolis has done enough to address this long-term problem. Natives have been over represented in homelessness for decades” said Professor Buffalohead. “This isn’t a new thing … it’s just making headlines now.”

From treaties broken by settlers to policies that excluded Native Americans from quality education and affordable housing, the homelessness issue among the indigenous dates back generations. While the current signs of support for camp relocation are somewhat encouraging, many barriers remain if the issues regarding homelessness, and particularly indigenous homelessness, are to be addressed.

When asked what element he believes is missing from the suggested solutions to ensure the camp is safely handled, Professor Buffalo head responded with one word:


This article first appeared in the Friday, September 28 edition of The Echo.

Residents of Hiawatha homeless camp sleep in tents, as they awaited the city council’s decision. Photo by Ezra McNair.