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HRA orders homeless camp to vacate following a spike in criminal activity

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DULUTH, MN-- Earlier this week, people living at a large homeless camp in Duluth were told they need to find somewhere else to stay.

The camp, called The Point of Rocks, is located just above W Michigan Street in the city's Observation Hill neighborhood and has taken shape over the last couple of months.

The land on the hill is owned by Duluth's Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

"Since July we have been getting various calls about homeless camps in that area," said Jill Keppers, the Executive Director of the Duluth Housing Authority.

On Tuesday, police showed up at the camp and told people they needed to be gone by Friday, or they will receive tickets for trespassing.

"It's just gotten to a point where we just didn't have a choice except to start issuing some tresspass notices so people know they really need to move and it can't be a big camp site like that," said Keppers.

Keppers said it was a hard decision, but one that needed to happen after recent criminal activity at the camp.

"It started when we started getting complaints about vandalism to cars, and theft and it has expanded now to an alleged sexual assault," said Keppers.

The HRA will now have to clean up the trash, broken glass and other items left behind.

Keppers said she does not know how much it will cost to restore the site, but said it could add up, depending on what is left.

Because they are a tax-funded service, it will be tax payer money covering the cost.

Keppers said the number of homeless people is growing, but the HRA, the City of Duluth and other local organizations are trying to find solutions. Funding for affordable housing is one of them.

"That is really what it's gonna take for us to build new affordable housing in town and be able to have units specifically set aside for those experiencing homelessness," said Keppers.

Those projects can take years, but right now, the question for people told to move is where do they go before winter sets in?

Keppers said the people evicted from the camp can set up camp somewhere else in the city or go to a local shelter.

The HRA is working with places like CHUM and One Roof Community Housing to find safe places for Duluth's homeless population before winter.

The bonding bill, passed Thursday, included 100 million dollars in housing infrastructure bonds.

The city can apply for that money to build more affordable and homeless housing.

Natalie Grant

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