July 17, 2020
David Katzenmeyer, our Program Supervisor of Project Recovery and Street Outreach, weighs in on how Minneapolis and St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs are struggling to manage growing homeless camps this summer under Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency executive order. He indicates that our street outreach teams are seeing better outcomes persuading homeless people to seek services when homeless encampments are not dismantled during COVID-19.
It’s a particularly challenging time for the homeless, said David Katzenmeyer, program supervisor with the nonprofit People Incorporated.
Ramsey County contracts with the nonprofit, which deploys case managers to help homeless people connect with services.
Homeless shelters have been thinned out to stop the spread of COVID, meaning fewer beds for those in need. Formerly popular stops for many homeless people at libraries, fast food restaurants and shopping centers, are now closed or severely restricted.
Katzenmeyer and his team have spent time working with people in camps in St. Paul, Maplewood and other spots tucked in wooded areas.
He said many of the suburban homeless population grew up or lived in the area and want to stay, even though it’s often more difficult to access services there.
“In the suburbs, we see a lot of people living in their vehicles and they really fall under the radar,” Katzenmeyer said.
Meeting basic needs
He said the governor’s order halting the dismantling of camps has made it easier to establish and maintain connections with homeless individuals.
Generally, Katzenmeyer said, his team sees better outcomes persuading homeless people to seek services when camps are not dismantled.
“Clearing encampments does not resolve someone’s homelessness, and often makes it harder for people to meet their basic needs and access resources,” Katzenmeyer said.