Mayor Carter: Stop the Evictions of Encampments

Saint Paul Mayor Carter and Saint Paul City Council

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If you have visited an encampment in St. Paul, you know about the incredible community, infrastructure, and stability our unhoused neighbors have created for themselves. Many encampment residents have recently found housing, and accredit the stability they experienced at encampments for their success—“I would not have found an apartment bouncing around from shelter to shelter.” According to the federal U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness: “The forced dispersal of people from encampment settings is not an appropriate solution or strategy, accomplishes nothing toward the goal of linking people to permanent housing opportunities, and can make it more difficult to provide such lasting solutions to people who have been sleeping and living in the encampment.” If we do not provide long-term, permanent indoor housing options at this time, we must at least allow unhoused people to maintain their stable residence outdoors.

During a time when most Americans are one missed paycheck away from homelessness, the City of St. Paul is evicting people from encampments during inclement weather. Our city is forcing people into a dead-end shelter pipeline that they don’t want to go down, under the guise of some moral high ground. Tell the City to stop kicking our neighbors out of their homes. The city must interrogate their colonial idea that encampments are not “dignified housing”. For many, it’s the most dignified living arrangement they’ve had.

If you live in Ward 4 or 6, you can thank your Councilmember for supporting the encampments, and urge them to get their Council colleagues on board.

Reach out to city officials as a constituent with these demands:

  • Convene an emergency St. Paul City Council meeting to address these issues

  • Place a moratorium on enforcement of any illegal camping ordinance, to last the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Halt the clearing and disposal of tents and other sheltering materials to ensure that unhoused people do not lose what may be their only present means to self-quarantine and practice social distancing

  • Adhere to the existing statewide eviction moratorium

  • Follow best practices outlined by the National Homelessness Law Center


Petition by

To: Saint Paul Mayor Carter and Saint Paul City Council
From: [Your Name]

Dear Mayor Carter, Deputy Mayor Tincher, and St. Paul City Councilmembers,

In 1956, after failing to provide electricity, modern plumbing, or municipal services to the immigrant community of Swede Hollow, the City of St. Paul declared the Hollow a health hazard, forcibly evicted families, and burned the neighborhood down. On April 16th of this year, a St. Paul city worker neglected to check a tent before removing it with a utility vehicle, seriously injuring the woman inside. And on National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, the City of St. Paul displaced residents of the Kellogg encampment from their home and from each other.

This approach is in direct contradiction with CDC Guidelines, which state, in part: “[i]f individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.” We contend that shelters wherein residents must share restrooms do not qualify as “individual housing options”, whereas hotel rooms do. If there are currently only 385 hotel rooms available, there are not enough “individual housing options” for every person living outside in St. Paul. And evicting an encampment with an active COVID-19 outbreak will only create further spread.

According to the City of St. Paul’s “Coordinated Response to Unsheltered Homelessness During COVID-19”, “encampments represent a serious health and safety risk.” The CDC recommends several methods for mitigating these risks, none of which the City has implemented adequately. These include “work[ing] together with community coalition members to improve sanitation in encampments” and providing functional, well-stocked restroom facilities.

“Quality of life” policing in cities across the country jeopardizes the physical safety, sleep patterns, and mental health of unhoused people. If City ordinances that prohibit “camping” truly aim to reduce the size and presence of the homeless population, then they have been wholly ineffective—recent statistics reflect growing numbers of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in St. Paul year after year, despite their enforcement. As various City departments continue to expend funds on enforcing and administering these laws in St. Paul, we urge you to instead direct these resources toward proven methods of reducing homelessness. The National Homelessness Law Center published Tent City, USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments, and How Communities are Responding, which includes best practices, model policies, and case studies from cities across the country responding to encampments.

If we do not provide long-term, permanent indoor housing options at this time, we must at least allow unhoused people to maintain their stable residence outdoors.

We are calling for the City of St. Paul to immediately:
Convene an emergency St. Paul City Council meeting to address these issues
Place a moratorium on enforcement of any illegal camping ordinance, to last the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic
Halt the clearing and disposal of tents and other sheltering materials to ensure that unhoused people do not lose what may be their only present means to self-quarantine and practice social distancing
Adhere to the existing statewide eviction moratorium
Follow best practices outlined by the National Homelessness Law Center