Coordinated Response to Encampments 

Saint Paul's Response to Encampments

Like communities across our nation, Saint Paul is experiencing a housing crisis along the full housing continuum. This has created challenges for those in our community in need of stable, accessible, fair, and equitable housing, and for those experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Efforts such as the City of Saint Paul’s Housing Trust Fund, developed by Mayor Melvin Carter to produce, preserve, and protect housing affordability for residents; our S.A.F.E. Housing Tenant Protections; and our Families First Pilot Program have helped respond to the many housing needs of our community.  

Our Coordinated Response to Unsheltered Homelessness During COVID-19 

Since 2018, the City has been actively responding to encampments through coordination and outreach in collaboration with Ramsey County, and nonprofit partners. Protocols are in place to monitor the safety and health of encampment residents, and ensure access to services. The City acts to restrict, limit, or close encampments only when necessary to protect the health, safety or security of encampment residents. Before any action is taken on an encampment the City works with Ramsey County and nonprofit partners to find safe, stable housing for encampment residents. Our guiding principles:

  • Everyone experiencing unsheltered homelessness is vulnerable and deserving of being treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with their rights.
  • Every effort mush be made to connect people to housing, shelter, and services.
  • Encampments represent a serious health and safety risk--particularly for those staying within the encampment--and do not represent a dignified form of shelter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the numbers of people who are experiencing homelessness, and the related economic impacts have led to more residents living in unsafe conditions in tents, under bridges, in caves.

The pandemic also has affected the way local jurisdictions respond to encampments. With the goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19, Governor Tim Walz’s peacetime emergency and subsequent Executive Orders outline the conditions under which local jurisdictions can restict, limit or close encampments. Those orders allow encampments to be cleared if a local governmental entity is either providing sufficient alternate housing, shelter or encampment space that complies with public health guidance, or if an encampment has reached a size or status that is a documented threat to the health, safety or security of residents. We work in collaboration with Ramsey County and our outreach partners to gather information and make decisions on a case-by-case basis to ensure our efforts align with City principles and the Governor’s Orders.  

Our efforts remain focused on supporting the safety and health of unsheltered residents amid this pandemic. Our strategies include responding to the increased need for shelter, housing supports, and housing options, and expanding access to meals, sanitary services, healthcare, mental/chemical health assessments, day space, and shelter options for women, youth, LGBTQ, and other specific needs. The rising number of encampments during the pandemic as led at times to friction with nearby neighbors and businesses. One response has been City support of the "Block by Block" program, which employs Ambassadors to not only help maintain clean and welcoming streets in the downtown area but to also assist individuals experiencing homelessness access services. Ambassadors may also provide crime prevention information. When a law enforcement response is called for, Saint Paul Police are able to deploy specialized units and increased patrols in targeted areas.

Learn more about our response to support the safety and health of unsheltered residents from this presentation to the Saint Paul City Council.  

Learn more about Ramsey County efforts here:  

How to help   

InvolveMN is providing up to 500 meals a day to our residents sheltering outdoors. If you wish to support that effort, please sign up here: https://www.involvemn.org/take-action The City is coordinating free food and prepared meal distribution along with other services at encampment sites throughout Saint Paul. Additional volunteer donations are not needed at this time and can contribute to excessive waste and public health concerns at sites.

Saint Paul Parks and Recreation is coordinating trash and debris pick up at encampment locations across the city. Volunteers are needed; please contact our City’s Parks Department at ParksCustomerService@ci.stpaul.mn.us  or by phone at  651-266-6400. 

If you see concerning conditions in encampments that threaten the health or safety of encampment or nearby residents, call the City’s Information and Complaint line at 651-266-8989. If you observe behavioral or security issues, please call the Saint Paul Police Department’s non-emergency number 651-291-1111. These reports can assist us in making informed decisions about each unique site.