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I Helped Turn an Empty Hotel Into a Shelter. Then the Owner Evicted Us.

“We were shut out of our rooms ... I really don’t know what’s next.”

KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images

I am a citizen of Red Lake Nation, but I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My grandparents raised me from the time I was six months old, and my grandad, who I call my dad, was a citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation. I am the mother of two living children right now, and I’ve been homeless since March 24.

I used to have a vehicle and a place to live. I was roommates with a friend of mine over by St. Louis Park. I lost everything in one day. I really don’t like talking about what happened. It was a serious situation where I woke up in the hospital the next day and my roommate had been taken to jail. When I became homeless, it was the middle of the pandemic. Before, my roommate and I were watching the news, and we stayed home all the time trying to stay safe from the virus. We didn’t go anywhere or do nothing. So it was hard for me, at first, to be homeless and on the street. You’re just out there 24-7. It was so cold out.

I was on the streets during the beginning of the George Floyd protests, too. I was actually there the day before they burnt down the Third Precinct Police Department. I recorded some of the protest on my phone, but because I was there when they started teargassing us and shooting into the crowd, I broke my phone and lost it. Police violence happens to us Native people, too, but we don’t speak up enough for us to have anything done. But we get hit, too. We have to come out and speak out about this kind of violence. It hurts me to talk about it. My son, who’s 25, is incarcerated right now in Hennepin County.

During the start of the protests, I was sleeping in a tent with my boyfriend near the Midtown Greenway Railroad tracks. But for the last little while, before we were evicted by the owner, I was staying at the old Sheraton on the south side of Minneapolis. Some local volunteers turned it into a sanctuary for those of us without homes. My boyfriend and I both didn’t have IDs, but they still took us in anyway. I’ve met a lot of people here who have been so helpful, and I’m grateful for that. I would see regular residents and say, “Hi” to them. Everybody just helped out each other, no matter what it was.

I was volunteering, cleaning up the place whenever I could. I’m a very clean person. I’d take the garbage out, pick up linens, vacuum, sweep here and there—I just tried to do something to keep the place clean. It was organized as best as it could be; it just seemed like the negativity came about too much. I’m not a judgmental person. I am an alcoholic. My mother was an alcoholic. And it took me a lot of years to come out of denial about my alcoholism and speak it out loud. So when I was walking around the hotel, I’d ask people, “Are you all right? Do you need something?” I was just trying to help out as best I could. It just needed more security from within the sanctuary community, which is mostly made up of those of us without homes and then some volunteers from the community who helped organize food and supply donations from local businesses.

On Tuesday, someone overdosed, which is when we were told we had to leave. We were still sleeping when all this happened. That’s when the property owner decided to kick us out. We were shut out of our rooms. I would like to have all the people that were volunteering and helping make this a safe place still be able to stay here, but I know that probably won’t happen.

I really don’t know what’s next. All I know is, I’m still here.