The City created the Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART) in late 2021 to address an unprecedented rise in homeless encampments amid a regional crisis in affordable housing. 

The City of Saint Paul and surrounding region saw a significant rise in unsheltered residents and homeless encampments over the last several years. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2021, encampment numbers reached historic levels. Learn more about the situation and our response in this presentation to City Council in 2021. The City's on-the-ground experience responding to that crisis created opportunities to develop new approaches. 

The City's guiding principle has been that encampments do not provide a safe, healthy, or secure living environment. The HART emerged as part of a Citywide commitment to engage the full spectrum of caring resources in our community to focus on our unsheltered residents. 

Anchored in the Department of Safety and Inspections, HART works across departments, service providers and government jurisdictions to integrate services and connect directly with our community's most vulnerable residents, one person at a time. HART staff seek to identify the unique needs of each unsheltered resident and, utilizing available community resources, secure the appropriate shelter or housing options and services, and to clear encampment sites. 

HART's Goals 

  • Provide a 24/7 response to those who are unsheltered or need immediate shelter supports
  • Learn more about individuals living in City encampments, in caves, or other outdoor spaces, to locate the right shelter environment to best fit each person's needs while recognizing their barriers.
  • Transition as many individuals who are unsheltered to available shelter resources while thoughtfully closing encampment sites across the city.
  • Continue working to decriminalize homelessness through identifying individual needs and connecting people to the medical, mental health, and other services they need to help them transition out of the unsheltered environment. 

HART's Day-to-Day Work 

As of August 2022, the team is assessing 55 active encampment sites throughout the city, with an estimated 116 individuals. HART is relentlessly engaged. This means visiting encampments repeatedly as needed to build relationship and trust and increase the chance that staff is present at moments of readiness for change or assistance. 

  • Ongoing communication and coordination with community service partners to assist in setting up long-term outreach services or re-engagement with outreach services. 
  • Coordinating on-site mental health assessments and on-site medical interventions to address health and wellness issues.
  • Assisting individuals in shelter readiness (for eg., to spay-neuter, certify companion animals).
  • Providing resources and assistance in navigating supports related to domestic abuse and violence, and sexual exploitation.
  • Prepare for impending encampment closures to ensure personal belongings will be stored or individuals will be relocated to shelter/housing opportunities when they are available.

The team includes: 

David Hoban, deputy director, Department of Safety and Inspections

Andrea Hinderaker, HART Program Coordinator

Brian Ganzel, HART/DSI Inspector III

Sam Stoltz, HART Outreach Advocate

What Can I Do To Help? 

Community members who wish to support those living in encampments are requested to consider donating appropriate items that leave a small footprint and minimal trash. Some suggestions include:

  • Bus cards or tokens
  • Bottles of water
  • Small, nonperishable snacks such as granola bars, single-serve cheese & cracker packages, etc.
  • Offering a garbage bag at the same time you bring donated items helps with clean up; and please be willing to collect a bag of trash when you leave. 

If you see concerning conditions in encampments call the City's Information and Complaint line at 651-266-8989. These reports assist us in making informed decisions about sites going forward. If you observe serious behavioral, safety or security issues, please call 911.

Last Edited: March 27, 2024