The City of Saint Cloud really let us down this week. As you know the campers in the Cooper Ave woods were evicted last week and some of them moved to the East side woods. After some had set up camp a very courteous police officer informed them that the spot they had chosen was on private property and that they should move to a spot where they could camp without a problem. The next day the police showed up and arrested one camper on a warrant. On Thursday night the police arrived at the East woods again and informed the campers that they would have to leave by noon Friday. On Friday morning, I called the city and the police to find out what was going on and if the current site wasn’t suitable, what options were out there that were. Tuesday at the warming center meeting we were told that there were none and that our only option was to find a private landowner who would accept us. Because the campers have already been asked to leave, we have had no time to find such a site. We now have around 12 people who are camping illegally with no place to go. If they stay at the East woods they can be arrested. If they return to the Cooper woods, they can be arrested. If they camp in a park, they can be arrested and if they camp in the city hall parking lot, they can be arrested.
We fail to see how this is in anyone’s best interest. When someone is arrested for trespassing, they are generally taken to the jail. The next day they are taken before a judge and usually released. It is not a good use of taxpayer resources to continuously arrest five to ten people per day, day after day, send them to jail, then to court, and then release them with nowhere to go. Having no other option, they will probably reset up camp the next day, somewhere else, only to face the chance of re-arrest. As the weather warms the situation will only worsen. The shelters currently providing places in their warming centers will not continue to house folks that they have trespassed when the cold weather rules no longer apply. Most of these individuals will end up on the street and in camps.
In our opinion it would be better for the city to designate some parcel for use by campers. Community organizations could cover the cost of toilets, showers and trash removal etc. People experiencing Homelessness need some place to be. Feeding and housing them at the jail, while it saves our organization money, is not fair to them or the taxpayers. While a lot of excellent ideas have been brought up, most are long term and do little to answer the question of, “where will these folks sleep tonight?”. Any other suggestions?
Thank you to Lucy, one of our volunteers, for spending a good portion of her day comforting one of our members who lost a parent, and to Rosamond for helping sort blankets. The staff attended the warming center meeting and congratulated the Salvation Army and the Place of Hope for opening their facilities to those with barriers during our cold spells. Tri-cap suggested we explore the possibility of setting up a slush fund to pay for motels during extreme weather.
Of those we had contact with, one person was evicted and went to Place of Hope., 2 left POH for the street, one went from the street to POH, one from Anne Marie’s to POH. 4 people are living in a motel at their own expense, 3 in cars.
We had 3 furniture pickups and 7 deliveries, gave out 4 gas cards and 6-20lb tanks of propane.
We received $35 in gift cards and 50 towels from individuals and a $500 donation from First United Methodist Church. Wow, did we ever need that after all this cold. We took our homeless volunteer movers out to lunch at the Covenant/ Bethlehem community meal. The food was excellent, they really excel at feeding the hungry.
We are currently in need of tarps and tents. Many get damaged during the frequent moves our campers are forced to endure. We also need pots and pans and toasters and vacuums for our lucky friends moving into apartments. Thank you and remember to be kind to everyone you meet. -Harry and Mary