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Woman's death at Minneapolis homeless encampment heightens health fears

The 26-year-old died from an apparent asthma attack.

There is growing alarm over the conditions for the predominantly Native American population living in a homeless camp in south Minneapolis, following the death of a young woman on Saturday.

Patina K. Park, the executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, said in a Facebook video on Monday that a woman living at the camp along Hiawatha and Franklin Avenues died from an asthma attack.

"That shouldn't have happened," she said. "Addressing those immediate health needs of the community [living in the camp] is probably the primary problem right now."

The woman has been identified as Alissa Rose Skipintheday, 26, of Minneapolis, whose funeral will be held this Thursday at the Ojibwe Community Center in Onamia, according to her obituary.

The Star Tribune reports that Skipintheday, a chronic asthma sufferer, did not have her emergency inhaler when she had her attack last week, and she died at Hennepin County Medical Center on Saturday.

Dr. Antony Stately, CEO of the Native American Community Clinic, told the newspaper her death "highlights the critical nature of conditions at the camp" and the "urgent need" to access medical care at the site.

The encampment continues to grow, and while city and Native American leaders have been striving to improve access to health services for the more than 120 people living on the strip of land, many are still struggling to get the help they need.

Mayor Jacob Frey had set a provisional date of Sept. 30 for the camp to be dismantled, with efforts underway to find either temporary or permanent affordable housing for camp dwellers, or a warmer location to move them to before winter arrives.

As Park describes, the camp is now being referred to as "The Wall of Forgotten Natives."

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American Indian leaders met with Frey again on Friday, during which they agreed to a framework for how they will move forward.

This will include the creation of "culturally sensitive" emergency shelters with services for mental health, chemical dependency, jobs training and housing on site.

The agreement also recognizes that the current location is not ideal, and that finding a safe, temporary and weather-appropriate shelter should be a priority, according to the Hiawatha Franklin Camp blog.

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