More than 200 homeless residents of Minneapolis have taken over a former Sheraton hotel in a neighborhood where protesters have demonstrated in recent days, around ten blocks from where police killed George Floyd on May 25, according to an article in the Minnesota Reformer. In doing so, they've created a sanctuary space for those without shelter.
Last week, the killing of Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers sparked riots and fires across south Minneapolis, leaving its homeless and displaced even more vulnerable. Volunteers negotiated the take over of the hotel with the support of the hotel's owners on May 29, as an 8 p.m. curfew descended on the city that excluded its 8,000 homeless residents.
The shared living space has thus far been managed like a commune as residents are running their own meetings where they collectively determine their needs and wants, and communicate them with volunteers. There are no leaders and the take was sponsored by no organization.
“People are organizing themselves. It’s a space where the value system that people are bringing in here is very explicitly that we take care of each other,” Rosemary Fister, one of the volunteers, told a Minnesota Reformer reporter in a video posted on Twitter. “We are who we have right now, so that’s what we have to do and that’s what we’re good at.”
The hotel has been relinquished by its owners into the hands of volunteers, Fister told the Minnesota Reformer.
Many of the hotel's new residents arrived from a homeless encampment near the destruction of Minneapolis Third Precinct police station. That encampment has grown in recent months as coronavirus has shuttered other public spaces in the city, and homeless shelters have reached capacity.
On Twitter, volunteers said they have secured a stream of funding to cover the daily cost of the hotel rooms and food for the roughly 200 residents. At night, those on volunteer shifts keep watch over the perimeter of the hotel property, which sits on Lake Street, where dozens of restaurants and businesses have been burned and damaged in recent days.
“Volunteers are prepping rooms, doing laundry, sanitizing surfaces, serving food from the hotel bar, organizing supplies, providing round-the-clock medic support, providing harm reduction supplies, doing community defense around the perimeter, & generally just making sh*t happen,” a volunteer named Rachel tweeted on Monday.
The 136-room hotel is now at full capacity, with 115 homeless Minneapolis residents on its waiting list, according to organizers on Twitter.
The 4-story Sheraton hotel, previously popular among tourists and those traveling on business, overlooks downtown Minneapolis. Each room comes with a lounge, microwave, hairdryer and TV, according to the hotel’s website.
The hotel is not accepting reservations online at this time, and it remains unclear whether residents are staying for the short term or long haul, but organizers say they’re looking for additional hotels to shelter those on the waiting list.
The hotel's owners did not respond to Motherboard's request for comment.