Updated: October 15, 2020 10:42 PM
Police are in the process of clearing out a homeless encampment known as Point of Rocks after getting complaints from the owner of the land, but the people living in the encampment say it is their home and don't want to leave.
What many see as a bunch of tents and tarps is a place people like "Dump truck" call home. The 36-year-old man has been living at the Point of Rocks encampment for several months now and said the people who live there feel welcomed, accepted, and safe.
"When I came here I had a backpack, one pair of pants and a shirt. I didn't have no tent no nothing. Now I have a place to live and I met an amazing group of people," said Dump truck, who got the nickname after getting hit by a dump truck over the summer while riding his bike in Canal Park.
The encampment is located on West Superior Street in the Observation Hill area. The owner of the land is the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
A report of an alleged sexual assault lead to the decision of telling the 30 to 40 people living there that they need to pack up and go. The people who live there said the assault didn't happen in the encampment and said they aren't causing trouble.
"We live day by day together. We're eating together, we're laughing, having a good time," said Dump truck.
"We've been working with our police department as well as with the community outreach homeless outreach worker to try to get people to voluntarily move but the calls for criminal activity and other disturbances have just increased," said Duluth HRA executive director Jill Keppers.
CHUM street outreach coordinator Deb Holman said there was no indication that there was going to be an eviction.
"The police have been aware, they've been through during the summer but we didn't really get wind of the eviction until they showed up two days ago," said Holman.
Holman said police have told the people living in the encampment that they have to leave soon.
"I think there is a deadline, although a day has not been given. The message from the police is that as long as people are making an effort and packing up they'll have a few days to get out of here," said Holman. "If it looks like they're not making any progress then the police are gonna come again in the next week I'm assuming and people will just be trespassed ticketed and told to get off the property and then I'm not sure at that point who will clean it."
Holman also said the people living in the encampment are welcomed to stay at CHUM but emphasized the bigger problem is not having affordable housing for them to go to.
"I think until we get like 1,000 units of housing we're not we're not gonna make a dent in the homeless population. We just don't have the housing," said Holman.
The people that live in the encampment said they are sad and worried. Some of them have been living there for months now and don't know where to go next.
"A lot of them already fled. Some are just waiting, I'm hearing a couple of voices say they're just going to have to kick me out. Some of us like me are trying to find the next space because if this isn't it we have to find another spot because we need stability," said Dump Truck.
Holman said conversations have been happening with city administration on what to do next and said this is the worst she's ever seen in homelessness.
"I made a list of folks that I know that are outside homeless. I have about 160 names on my list," said Holman.
As far as the land goes, Keppers said there are no immediate plans for the property at the moment.
"We have been talking to a couple of different developers and putting the property out there for them to look at as potential development sites for housing but right now it does not have a specific plan for its use," said Keppers.
Keppers also said they have been working with CHUM, City of Duluth, St. Louis County and the Ordean Foundation to look for alternatives and solutions to expand options for citizens experiencing homelessness.
Updated: October 15, 2020 10:42 PM
Created: October 15, 2020 04:25 PM
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