County withdraws north Minneapolis homeless shelter plans after outcry

For years, the vacant Willard School and Gordon Center have been eyed as the site of an eventual youth development center. But as homeless encampments proliferated in Minneapolis parks this summer, several key votes were scheduled by school board, city, and county officials to redevelop the Gordon Center as a Salvation Army shelter for women without children.

Opponents of the project argued there are already three homeless shelters within one mile of the Gordon Center, and that Willard Park’s playground next door is one of the only places in the neighborhood where young kids can go.

The violence prevention outreach team A Mother’s Love also canvassed residential streets surrounding the Gordon Center, asking if people were informed of plans to open a homeless shelter there. Neighbors had no idea it was happening, they said.

“You think they could just force something over by Lake Calhoun?” said Minneapolis school board member KerryJo Felder at a recent community rally opposing the shelter. “So why do they think we are any less than they are, over here on the North Side?”

Hennepin County District 2 Commissioner Irene Fernando published a statement on Wednesday rescinding shelter plans. Fernando reiterated her desire to open another shelter in north Minneapolis because nearly 30 percent of people seeking emergency housing are based in the neighborhood.

“North Minneapolis residents who need emergency shelter support frequently have to leave their neighborhood in order to find a place to stay, jeopardizing jobs, education, and health care opportunities while making it more difficult for people in crisis to access family and support networks,” she said.

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