City Council to address Rochester homeless encampment clearings

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(ABC 6 News) – Frustrations continue to rise as homeless encampments across Rochester have been cleared out. So far this year, the city has already cleared about twenty.

In the agenda for the Council Study Session meeting Monday, the city said emergency assistance funding is currently exhausted. It also noted the warming center is at capacity nightly, and there is an increase in demand for the Housing Stability Team.

In a Rochester Parks and Recreation Department board meeting earlier this month, the department said it’s received several complaints related to the encampments. This includes park visitors feeling unsafe, reports of drug use, and alcohol consumption near playgrounds, and multiple resident complaints to city officials.

Currently, Park Ops send notifications to service providers (Housing Stability Team, The Landing, etc.) and the homeless camp team, after a complaint is received and verified by Park Operations or Dispatch. Then, service providers are given two full business days to make contact, offer services, and try to relocate campers.

RELATED: “It’s an untenable situation”; Deeper look into the homeless encampment situation in Rochester

“It just makes it harder for us and for the folks over at the county to do our jobs and to get these people in a better situation,” said Dan Fifield, Co-Founder, President, and CEO of The Landing MN.

The Parks and Recreation Board is asking for the Rochester Police Department (RPD) to post the encampment after a verified complaint. The post would indicate campers have 48 hours to clean up and vacate. Then, Parks Ops would send a notification to service providers and the homeless camp team. After that, service providers would be given two business days to offer services.

In both plans, the current and proposed plan, after these steps, RPD attempts to contact after the two business days are up to remind the camp the city will be clearing the space. That is when Park Ops will clear the area and can request RPD presence during the clearing.

The board said it’s learned there have been few arrests because people are not complying with the process. If there are legal consequences, it’s not changing behavior, and it’s not always possible to connect people with resources.

“I hope that they come up with a better solution than making it harder for these people to exist. I think that there are some other alternatives that need to be looked at and I hope that they can do that,” added Fifield.

The City Council Study Session begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall.