Growing Homeless Encampment Near Bayfront Park Causes Concern

DULUTH Minn. — A growing homeless encampment near Duluth’s Bayfront Park is once again causing health and safety concerns for the city of Duluth and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

If you drive on Railroad Street, it’s hard to avoid noticing an encampment next to some old train cars across from Pier B and Bayfront Park.

The camp started out months ago with a tent or two but has since grown to include piles of trash and debris, which official say, can often include hazardous materials like needles.

CHUM’s homeless outreach coordinator Deb Holman told FOX 21 Thursday that six people are living in the area by the train cars and along Rail Road Street near Playfront Bark next to Bayfront.

Holman said the goal is to keep homeless camps small and clean, but she said the lack of affordable housing in the area makes it difficult to control.

Meanwhile, MnDOT released the following statement to FOX 21 about the growing homeless encampment, which sits on their land near I-35.

“We make every effort to provide services and long-term solutions for the people currently residing in the encampments on state right of way. We are currently coordinating with the city, railroads and social service providers to monitor health and safety at the location and are determining what the next steps will be.”

The next steps, according to Holman, will be to get a professional crew called in to clean up the area, just like MnDOT did in the same area in October of 2022 when a similar camp and hazardous materials built up.

The 2022 clean-up effort happened as MnDOT was installing fencing just down the road on Railroad Street along the opening below I-35, which was a common place for the homeless to camp out.  It was also a place where two large fires broke out over the course of a year.Stepping On Up

Officials said those fires were cause by people living under the interstate. Holman said some people have already cut through the fencing to continue living there.

Beyond helping the homeless find permanent housing, more than a half-dozen non-profits, including CHUM, are working together with the city of Duluth to identify specific land for temporary unsheltered homelessness.

The updated city’s ordinance for so-called “outdoor villages” sets standards for hygiene and sanitation services and requires sites have staff support from homeless service agencies.  This is just one initiative of a five-year homelessness plan through “Stepping On Up.”

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