On the morning of Thursday, August 24, Minnesota State Troopers clambered over an overturned car, piles of street lamps, and concrete barriers brought in to fortify the perimeter of a strip of land known as the Wall of Forgotten Natives as its roughly 140 residents moved their belongings out. When unhoused residents of Minneapolis moved back to the Wall a week earlier after being evicted from a nearby encampment, activists rallied around it to call attention to the city’s ongoing practice of encampment evictions and advocating for a better solution to issues of homelessness and addiction facing the city’s Native American communities.
There is a strong body of evidence on what works when it comes to resolving homelessness – housing – and what does not work – punitive policies like criminalization and homeless sweeps that move people around while discarding their belongings. So why do so many American cities seem vexed when it comes to this issue, constantly framing people who are unhoused as threats to public safety while simultaneously promising a compassionate approach? A big reason for this is that complaint-driven policies of homelessness prevail in many cities despite being antithetical to resolving homelessness.
Around 50 residents of a self-organized encampment known as Camp Resolution, which has been occupied since late September of this year, are now celebrating after the Sacramento City Council was pushed to pass a unanimous vote against a sweep by police, leading to a pause in a scheduled mass eviction. While the future of the space remains unknown, residents and supporters of the camp are currently rallying in support and gathering food and other supplies. What began as a safe place for people living in RVs and tiny homes, became another skirmish in an increasing war on the houseless, as Democratic run cities turned away from progressive policies towards an all out attack on the poor.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – On Oct. 6, 2022, the City of Minneapolis evicted three encampments of unhoused people, leaving over 100 people displaced without tents and blankets as a cold front swept the region. SWAT teams forced residents of the Near North, Van White, and Cedar-Franklin encampments to leave their tents as city workers bulldozed and threw away their belongings. Also on Oct. 6, dozens of people recently released from prison and living in a halfway house were evicted. In other moves just days before, the city used a massive police presence to evict an encampment near Bloomington and Lake St. In response to the severity of the recent evictions and the many previous sweeps, advocates of the unhoused held a multi-day occupation with tents outside of the Minneapolis City Hall pushing for resources and solutions. Also in response, hours after the evictions, graffiti reading “Evict Frey” with an image of a tent was painted on the side of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s apartment.
Dallas, Texas - Over 40 people delayed the sweeping of a South Dallas homeless encampment on Friday morning, blocking off the camp with their bodies and cars. Some were armed with rifles. “We’re just trying to move people, trying to minimize any risk coming up,” said Jonathan Guadian, who was unarmed and frequently volunteers to help residents of the camp. City staff, which included city marshals, homeless solutions and code compliance, stood at the camp’s edge negotiating with residents and activists before deciding they’d give them more time to move people’s belongings. “We’re here just in peace, we’re not going to use force…it’s never the intent to harm,” said Clifton Knight, a chief deputy with the Dallas Marshal’s Office.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – After swelling to serve several dozen residents swept from other encampments, the lot on 29th Street and 14th Avenue continues to be controlled by unhoused residents despite the ongoing threat of eviction. On July 8, dozens of community members rallied at the encampment in the early morning hours and staved off what many thought was an eviction attempt by the city. Unicorn Riot heard from East Phillips resident and encampment supporter, Angela Richards, along with encampment resident, King, about the roles they were taking during the morning of July 8 and their thoughts on encampment evictions. Update: On July 20, 2022, Minneapolis Police evicted the encampment. Unicorn Riot was live speaking with some of the residents displaced from the eviction.
Minneapolis, Minnesota – On June 1, 2022, authorities unsuccessfully cleared an encampment of tents on an unused strip of land off Interstate 35. Eviction defenders thwarted the sweep by asking for documents, helping residents pack and move, and using their bodies and placing objects in the way of authorities. Despite aggression from the contractors hired for the eviction cleanup, no tents were taken. Yet, all residents have since moved. Arriving around 9 a.m., State Patrol officers and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) workers arrived to the encampment next to the northbound 28th St. exit from I-35W, with plans to clear the tents. Residents of the camp started living there because the previous encampments they lived in were also swept by the city.
Keene, New Hampshire - Community organizers in Keene, New Hampshire, pitched tents in Central Square Park outside of Keene City Hall for an overnight protest on the evening of May 21 to draw attention to an impending eviction of a homeless encampment behind the local Aldi and Kohls. Earlier in May the encampment was served an eviction for May 23. The eviction notice was delivered by city police, accompanied by new “no trespassing” signs tacked to trees in the camps. The residents are being evicted by property owner Wilder Co. only two months after an eviction behind the local Hannaford supermarket forced many to relocate to the woods behind Aldi and Kohls. Campers described eviction after eviction to outreach volunteers from Keene Mutual Aid, one saying “We have nowhere else to go.”
At a fundraiser on Friday, Adams told The New York Times that city agencies would identify the encampments, offer residents homeless outreach services, and then “dismantle” their makeshift shelters — all within a two-week period. On Saturday, a spokesperson for the mayor said the initial sweep has already begun, led by the New York Police Department, as well as the sanitation, social services and parks departments. The task force aims to clear 150 or more makeshift shelters on its first pass, which began on March 18th. “We are breaking down siloes and working together across government to keep New Yorkers safe and our streets clean,” Adams told Gothamist in a written statement.
In Canada’s homeless encampments, two faces of state brutality are on display. One is the “organized abandonment” that has relegated hundreds of thousands across Canada to homelessness (at twice the rate as in the United States). The other is the “organized violence” that evicts homeless people from encampments erected in the shadow of the state’s malign neglect. In Toronto, Canada’s largest and most unequal city, frontline workers estimate there are currently 1,000 to 2,000 people sleeping in dozens of encampments outdoors — several times more than the 400 acknowledged by city officials. Against the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the former UN Special Rapporteur on Housing...
Santa Cruz, CA - Local advocacy groups turned to the federal court system this week in the latest effort to prevent dispersal of a homeless encampment that swelled to an estimated 150 people this month. In response, U.S. District Court of Northern California Judge Susan van Keulen granted an emergency temporary restraining order against the City of Santa Cruz, through Jan. 6, preventing it from shuttering San Lorenzo Park. “The Court finds that Plaintiffs have shown that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and/or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition,” van Keulen wrote in her order. The Santa Cruz Homeless Union and Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs groups earlier filed a request with the San Jose court in response to the city’s Dec. 17 emergency order by the city manager.
The federal eviction moratorium is set to expire in December leaving an estimated 30 million people at risk of eviction. Members of Congress are still unable to reach an agreement on a relief bill that will extend the moratorium, as well as other important programs that were included in the CARES Act early in the year. I speak with two people about what is being done in their communities. They provide examples for others in similar situations. Joey Lankowski is with Food Not Bombs Las Vegas. They are building tiny home communities to keep people sheltered and physically separated when they have nowhere else to go. Then I speak with William X Nietsche whose family was victimized by predatory lending practices about what they are doing to keep their home. Many people in the community have rallied around them, building an eviction defense camp around their house.
An encampment of over 100 houseless people sits on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway here, steps away from the iconic art museum of “Rocky” movie fame and under the noses of the Philadelphia bourgeoisie. JTD camp is a self-declared autonomous and cop-free zone providing a safe environment at a time when the COVID pandemic is ravaging the city. A large “Black Lives Matter” banner hangs at the entrance. The James Talib Dean camp, named to honor an organizer who died shortly after it was established in June, is the latest in a series of camps set up by local activist groups.