An estimated 200 people who have been staying at a Lake Street hotel that acted as a sanctuary amid the unrest in Minneapolis have been ordered to leave.
The Sheraton Hotel has been providing temporary shelter to homeless people who had previously been staying in encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they found themselves at risk due to the unrest in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Some of those who ended up at the hotel were staying at the encampment by Hiawatha and Lake, which was cleared out due to its proximity to the clashes between police and protesters at the 3rd Precinct. A GoFundMe page set up to support those staying at the Sheraton has raised almost $130,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
But on Tuesday morning, it was announced that the hotel was to be evacuated, with those staying there given a few hours' notice to vacate.
Per the Star Tribune, the sudden eviction came after an overdose that led to a fire alarm being pulled around 6 a.m. this morning, with an announcement following that the temporary residents had to leave.
Volunteers who have been helping to run and maintain the sanctuary have been scrambling to find residents places to go, calling on people to bring tents and other camping supplies to Peavey Park.
The pandemic has put additional strain on the Twin Cities' homeless resources, as shelters have had to reduce capacity to limit the potential spread of the virus.
The hotel's owner, Jay Patel, had agreed to provide shelter to those running from the rioting on May 29, and while this was due to end the next day, he allowed it to stay open after a number of volunteers came forward prepared to create a "mutual aid community care system," organizing meals, cleaning, and support for residents.
But a letter from Ryan Companies, which owns the Midtown Exchange where the hotel is situated, told Jay Patel that the shelter is in violation of the hotel's contract due to drug, traffic and litter problems.
One of the temporary residents, Abu Bakr, told BMTN that he made a beeline for the hotel during the unrest after seeing the sign for "sanctuary."
He said he'd had a long history of homelessness and before moving into the sanctuary had been living in his car – which was set on fire – or staying with family.
Of the sanctuary, he said: "It’s had a very wholesome and good impact, being able to come here in the community and be a part of it, and being able to share ideas, as opposed of being informed and told what to do, as like a lot of other resources do.
"It gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility in a home type environment. As opposed to being in a shelter where you feel like you’re like in jail."
"The food used to be a bar but now it’s a food center and you can come there and get your needs fulfilled," he added. "Everything down there [Lake Street] is burnt, so we may just have some people come here for something to drink, or a bite for the kids.
"I think it’s good for the whole south Minneapolis community, as something that can help them out."