ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The onset of wintry weather is impacting the safety and well-being of dozens of people living in a St. Paul homeless encampment.
That’s why city officials have announced the site must be cleared by 10 a.m. Thursday. That announcement has many who call the space home wondering where they will go.
”It is a family, this is one big family. Everybody looks out for each other,” Randle Green said.
Randle Green says the people that call the Cathedral Encampment home are bonded together by circumstance, and stick together like family. This pop up community of people has gone from 65 tents this summer to about 27 tents today.
”Big concern for us is safety, public safety,” Kevin Gutknecht with the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.
MnDOT’s Kevin Gutknecht says in working with city and county officials, they decided the health and safety of people in the encampment is priority.
He says cold temperatures are forcing them to act now to clear the camp. Fires are a big concern.
Our cameras were there two weeks ago when one tent went up in flames.
“We’re seeing that the people who are living there are gathering more materials to provide heat, i.e. firewood, so that means the risk of fire is even greater,” Gutknecht said.
”We got a little butane, butane heater,” Green said.
Some of the tents do have heaters inside. That, plus fire pits, spread throughout the camp is a big reason MnDOT says no more.
“We like it here but now the police telling us we got to go,” Green said.
“The city did tell them it was about two weeks ago, the last clean-up, and evacuation they were told this last time that they would be able to stay yesterday. The vacate notices came out again and they are being told they are going to have to clear out tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.,” Homeless advocate Stephanie Stuart said.
Stuart says despite what officials say, housing for the homeless is limited.
She believes tearing apart the camp will keep people from getting the life-saving resources they need.
“They are going to be moving around. They’ll be sleeping on the light rail, they are going to miss work, they are going to miss connections with their social services and case workers. They have no idea what to do anymore,” Stuart said.
Stuart and others are at the site, hoping to help as many as they can before time runs out.
MnDOT says a contractor has been hired to clear the site by 10 a.m. Thursday. City officials say they have worked for months to plug people there into resources, and will continue to work with those remaining to find them housing.