I do not support allowing people to camp in city parks. In January of 2021, the Park Board voted to no longer issue permits for encampments in parks. I support that decision and would oppose efforts to revisit this issue.
The Park Board responded with good intentions to the unique and convergent crises of 2020. But the decision to locate hundreds of people in our parks in tents took the Park Board and its staff far outside its mission and was neither safe nor sustainable. Those living in parks were vulnerable to violence, assault, theft, severe weather, lack of consistent services and food insecurity. Many relied on the good will of nearby residents and volunteers through the summer – a model that was admirable but not sustainable. During this time, many residents kept their children away from city parks due to safety concerns.
The issues facing unhoused people are varied and systemic. People cannot begin to think beyond their most basic needs while living in unstable, unsecured conditions. Human beings in crisis may need access to medical care, mental health services, addiction services and secure shelter with plumbing, electricity, food and case managers who can help them navigate appropriate support services, including housing.
Housing is one of the greatest challenges facing Minneapolis. A comprehensive strategy involving city, county, Met Council, non-profit and state investment and leadership is needed. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board should equip park staff with information, resources and training to empower them to connect people in need to the compassionate services and temporary housing available.