Hotels are empty: put us up

David Hewitt - Director of Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, Hennepin County Commission, Minneapolis City Council, Governor Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey,

Support the Minneapolis unhoused community demand short and long-term solutions from the city and county.

To: David Hewitt - Director of Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, Hennepin County Commission, Minneapolis City Council, Governor Tim Walz, Mayor Jacob Frey,
From: [Your Name]

I support the demands outlined below by unhoused Minneapolis residents:

We are all currently living in hotel rooms paid for by community donations and grassroots organizations or we are living outside alongside hundreds of other unhomed people. Living in hotels has given us the peace and stability to figure out our next step despite experiencing a personal crisis; being unhomed. But when funding from these grassroots organizations runs out, we don’t know what we will do or where we will go. Being outside is a death sentence.

Those of us who are writing this, for some reason, do not qualify for county owned hotels because we are not considered to be at a “high risk” of dying of COVID. The truth is, everyone who is unhoused is at high risk of dying of exposure, illness, or violence when we are forced to be out in the cold, especially when winter came faster than we thought it would. The unhoused are fighting for resources, pitted against each other for no reason. We know that there are enough resources for all of us to be indoors this winter. One of us tried calling Adult Shelter Connect and was told priority for hotels is given to people who have previously stayed in shelter and yet 800-1,000 unhomed people are spending their days and nights outside right now.

Hotels are a good response to winter and COVID-19. That would get all of us on the Greenway or parks out of the cold and into safety. We know the county can pay to put us up in the vacant hotel rooms around town, where we can all have privacy. At least for the winter, hotels can and should be for everyone, but the county just won't give it to us. Hotels give us the basic necessities that every human being on Earth deserves, like shelter from the cold, access to running water, access to electricity, a shower, a locked door, and a safe place to store belongings.

Shelters are not a solution. Shelters are an absolute ‘Hell no’. Capital H. Most of us would rather be in the streets than the shelter. That’s why you saw hundreds of us in parks this summer. Minnesota building more shelters with all this CARES money is ridiculous.

Mayor Frey, would you feel okay about sleeping in Harbor Light without special treatment? What about you, David Hewitt, would you let anyone you love spend the night there? County commissioners, would you go into the camps and sleep for a month in the winter and tell us how you like it? Would you like to try to get around town without a car? Would you try to get yourself a cheap car and deal with living out of that? You have not experienced what we experience. Ask us about the solutions we would like to see. Show up and talk to us.

If you want to talk long-term solutions, don’t talk shelters. We’ve already been there. Here are the solutions we actually want:

• More public housing in Hennepin, Dakota and Ramsey.
• Convert vacant buildings into public housing and cooperative housing. No more privatization!
• Change policies to make it easier to get jobs and housing with a record.
• We want to get off of federal assistance.
• Stop using “deserving” and “undeserving” to not provide dignified winter housing for ALL.
• Get rid of the rule that limits certain services to those who have been homeless for one year or more — homeless is homeless.
• Change policies to make it easier to get jobs and get into housing while having a record.
• Have resource centers that are accessible 24 hours, 7 days a week.
• Cannabis reform so we aren’t criminalized for treating our ailments and anxiety
• Use those millions in CARES dollars to pay rent to landlords on our behalf.

Also, we are aware the County is buying the Extended Stay on Lyndale on November 1st. On that day, over 50 of us who are staying there through community donations will be forced to leave. If you’re kicking unsheltered people out for the sake of putting unsheltered people in, that’s a problem.

Let those of us in the Extended Stay stay there. But, do not run the hotel like a shelter — people are scared when they are run like a shelter. What we are doing in here is taking care of each other without doing anything people don’t want, like daily check-ins. Hotels this winter should be resourced with County money, but operations should incorporate the demands and wants of the people living there.

Use the money to buy more hotels for more people, including the people currently sleeping outside, regardless of whether or not we fit your criteria for COVID high risk. There is more than enough empty hotel space in Hennepin County, and there is more than enough money.

If you are really trying to take care of the homeless, do not force us to leave the Extended Stay on November 1. Instead, meet us at the Extended Stay America – 7956 Lyndale Ave S – at 11:00 AM on Sunday November 1st to support us and discuss your plans to fund hotels and long term solutions.

We know the county has the money for hotels for the winter and for all of the above in the long term. You had enough public funds to help build the Vikings’ Stadium, and they don’t even win anymore

We fear every day for people still outside now that it is cold, especially our elders, the disabled, people with mental health trauma, all these people with nowhere to go. If the state could help us out and care about the community, we could better care for each other. One of us might open a Boys and Girls club. We are caring for one another right now; on the Greenway, at the parks and at the hotels.

Please let us know by this Friday October 30th at noon whether you will be there, as well as steps you can take to ensure this can happen.

Nadine Little
Allen Touche
Koop Swagg
Junail Anderson
Six Residents of the Extended Stay