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Park Sanctuaries

a crisis response for unhoused residents

The state of homelessness in the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County recently became more evident across the city, including in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood. This has been driven by a variety of events that began as some unhoused residents began to occupy Powderhorn Park for shelter and approximately 100 other outdoor areas in the City. 

From the start of the Powderhorn Sanctuary, PPNA has sought and continues to call for actions surrounding homelessness that can support unhoused and housed residents. This includes:

Ongoing Multi-Jurisdictional Response

The reality and magnitude of homelessness in the City and County requires plans and funded actions at all levels of government.

More Supportive Services, Temporary, and Long-Term Housing is Needed

Housing is a human right, and more resources are needed to create paths to housing for those with a wide range of health, emotional, and behavioral needs.

All Community Voices Can Help Drive Change

Each resident and community stakeholder can help build awareness, concern, and action toward the needs connected to homelessness. Differing and aligned views can help foster necessary change. 


A variety of circumstances, decisions, and actions have unfolded quickly in regard to the Powderhorn Sanctuary. These continue to have wide-ranging impacts on unhoused and housed residents. Although PPNA is not aware of all the moving pieces, the following are some actions in the timeline that aim to help account for some of the things that have taken place around this matter. 

Unhoused Residents

Powderhorn Sanctuary

  • Around June 10th some persons experiencing homelessness began to occupy Powderhorn Park for shelter

  • Within two weeks, there were two large encampments in the park, commonly referred to as the East and West sanctuaries 

  • Prior to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) taking steps to enact its Resolution 2020-267, which in-part set temporary encampment sizes to 25 people, the total number of persons sheltering in Powderhorn Park was reported as 282 by County sources.

  • As of August 14th, MPRB has removed all unsheltered persons from Powderhorn Park; many moved to other parks or encampments throughout the city.

Powderhorn Park

Neighborhood Association

  • During PPNA’s June 11th board meeting, just over two-dozen residents attended. Those residents who addressed the board expressed a range of support and posed questions about how to assist residents occupying Powderhorn Park.

  • On June 12th, PPNA began circulating a petition calling for a multi-jurisdictional response to support those sheltering in the park and for residents in the park to be allowed to remain temporarily as better solutions were provided.

  • Since mid-June PPNA has sought to share updates regarding the Powderhorn Sanctuary through emails, began hosting a bi-weekly Zoom meeting on June 26th, participates in meetings led by County, City, and State representatives about their efforts to aid coordinating steps, and provided some volunteer support alongside organizers and residents. 

Minneapolis Sanctuary Movement

  • This group of Minneapolis residents came together rather informally to help unhoused residents during the riots that sprung from the civil uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd by then Minneapolis police officers. 

  • During the majority of June and July, this group was recognized by various municipal elected and appointed leaders, along with residents and PPNA, as the primary organizers trying to coordinate support for unhoused residents in the Powderhorn Sanctuary

  • Members of this group, during various multi-jurisdictional meetings, indicated that they were not in the position to provide the necessary support for unhoused residents, and acknowledged the need to limit the encampment size as a result of the unacceptable predatory violence that began to arise around and within the East and West encampments.

  • In late July, this group began transitioning away from attempting to concentrate support at the Powderhorn Sanctuary in an attempt to help support smaller encampments in other areas and parks in the City.

  • Many volunteers continue to support sanctuary residents now living in hotels across the metro, many funded by Zacah. Volunteers provide meals, transportation, and support in securing permanent housing.

Multi-jurisdictional Response

  • MPRB enacted Resolution 2020-253 on June 17th, which provided for the temporary use of parks as refuge for persons experiencing homelessness. On July 15th, it adopted Resolution 2020-267 establishing a series of parameters related to the duration, size, and number of permissible encampments in parks. 

  • On June 19th, Senators Hayden, Torres Ray, Dibble, and Dziedzic introduced S.F. No. 160 during the first Special Session, which related to taking steps and allocating resources to support short- and long-term solutions related to homelessness and specifically reduce the encampment at Powderhorn Park. This legislation did not advance

  • In late July, the City, County, and State pledged $19 million to support three new shelters in Minneapolis, as a part of their acknowledgment and response to the existing and growing homelessness crisis. 

  • County, City, MPRB, and State representatives began to conduct a variety of weekly meetings to discuss how they can help address the various encampments throughout the City. This has aided some unhoused residents’ ability to access temporary and permanent housing, though an estimated 100 encampments remain with roughly 700 unhoused residents.  These meetings have now stopped as they were focused on the Powderhorn encampments specifically

  • In October, Hennepin County allocated more than $15 million in CARES funding to support our unsheltered neighbors. This includes funding for 20 harm reduction beds to be contracted with AICDC, a contract with Avivo, and funding for the Housing and Redevelopment Authority. In late September, the county also purchased two buildings totaling 65 beds, also using CARES funding.


Community Impacts

  • PPNA is aware that the number of unsheltered persons in Powderhorn Park resulted in the disruption of many community members' ability to use areas of the park for various recreational uses as in prior seasons.

  • While incidents of violent crime are on the rise across Minneapolis and the country, PPNA recognizes that situations where persons are sheltering outdoors is generally not safe.

  • Community-wide understanding is growing around the extensive need for more access to healthcare and affordable and accessible housing in areas of the City with a disproportionate number of unhoused residents.  We’ve compiled resources to learn about harm reduction and homelessness here.

  • You can read more about the people facing a Minnesota winter without shelter, and their lived experiences this summer, here.

What’s Next

The community can work together to ensure that all people in Minneapolis have access to dignified housing they can afford. This will require continued and persistent advocacy efforts to ensure the housing stock matches the needs of our community.

As outlined in Hennepin County’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, the following goals must be met

Prevent homelessness

Provide coordinated outreach

Develop housing opportunities

Improve service delivery

Build capacity for self-support

Implement system improvements

Ways To Help

Donate time, supplies, or money. Info about supply donations can be found on Facebook or Instagram @SanctuarySupplyDepot. Financial support to Zacah helps high-risk unsheltered people get into hotels when they can’t access other options. Volunteer opportunities range, but check out The People’s Laundry, Neighbors for Homes, and Bikes and Bites as a starting point.

What is PPNA Doing?

As a neighborhood association, PPNA works to represent the diverse voices of the community and advocate for overall community health. Here’s what you can expect from us:

Ongoing engagement with the City, County, and State representatives to advocate for immediate, short-term, and long-term resources

Ongoing email updates sharing what we know about public and private steps to more fully address the homelessness crisis across the community and Minneapolis.  You can also see these archived on our blog

Continued encouragement for the community to share their input and  lend their voice to the needed change

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