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Duluth homeless in standoff with city over camp

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Residents of a homeless camp under a freeway overpass in downtown Duluth are telling police to back off threats to break them up.

“We’re like family,” 38-year-old camp resident Nate Briese said at an impromptu news conference, the Duluth News Tribune reports. “We all look out for each other.”

The encampment, currently about 15 people, is under a freeway underpass in a space known as "Graffiti Graveyard" for the colorful artwork scrawled there. (The graffiti has its own Facebook page, with images.)

The site has been a destination for the homeless for years, but homeless there say police have been threatening to bust up the camp. They say it offers shelter and group protection they wouldn't have if they were scattered around the city.

City officials say the camp has been the setting of violence and the subject of increased calls to police. No specific deadlines have been set for breaking up the settlement, a city spokeswoman told the News Tribune, but he said the camp must be dismantled. The site was the scene of a beating 10 years ago in which two people died, a crime that is still unsolved.

Homeless advocates say they hope more attention on the camp will spur more action on the broader homeless problem in Duluth. In a 2010 story, the News Tribune examined homelessness in the city in an eight-part series, noting that dozens of people are on the streets on any given night, even in the brutally cold winter.

The ranks of Duluth homeless have been growing at an alarming rate, Northland's Newscenter reported early last year.

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