Sanctuary Supply Depot aims to support houseless encampment residents

Reporting by JD Duggan, Freelance Community Journalist

The group accepts donations at Boneshaker Books in Seward neighborhood 4-6 p.m. each day.

The group accepts donations at Boneshaker Books in Seward neighborhood 4-6 p.m. each day.

After police disbanded an encampment that included hundreds of people in Powderhorn Park last summer, volunteers sought a new way to distribute resources.

Unsheltered people moved to smaller encampments throughout the city and Sanctuary Supply Depot was formed. “We wanted to continue to support folks with supplies, but realized, Oh, the logistics of that are very different when everyone is spread out versus when everyone is in one place,” said Sarah Greenfield, an organizer with the Supply Depot.

Greenfield is one of multiple volunteers and organizers that established the group last year. The Supply Depot acts as a central hub that helps unsheltered people throughout the city with about a dozen core volunteers that check in with encampments for needs while also running donation drives and dropping off goods. A broader network of loosely connected volunteers also offer help when they’re able.

Now, a year after Powderhorn and the uprising spurred by the police murder of George Floyd, donations to the Supply Depot have slowed — some energy has waned, and residents are less likely to consider unsheltered people in Minnesota’s warmer months. 

Greenfield said the team still appreciates the people who do donate and volunteer their time when they can.

Kor Pace, another volunteer with the group, said she recognizes how this summer is different than the past. Last summer, people had more time to volunteer because of lockdown closures, and some people donated the extra money they had from unemployment benefits or stimulus checks.

“We had a lot of people that just had the resources and the time to volunteer or to donate,” Pace said. “And that’s not happening anymore.” 

But the group is still doing what it can to help people who live outside.

“It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s not as if the issue itself has changed,” Greenfield said. “I’d say there’s just as many folks [living outside] this summer as there were last summer, it’s just maybe not as visible.”

A bout of fires in encampments have also been a recent blow, and many people have had to basically start back at square one after their possessions were destroyed. Evictions also pose a threat when the city bulldozes tents and peoples’ possessions. “You know, it sucks when we’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, sorry, we don’t have enough tents,’ or ‘we don’t have enough of whatever it is that you need,’” Pace said.

Pace added that the group can sometimes only fill half of an encampment’s order because of a lack of supply. “That’s always a bummer, for sure,” she said, but it’s fulfilling when the group can help.

“You always really need somebody in your corner to help you out or you’re never gonna get anywhere in life,” Pace said.

Community members are seeking donations to help offset the costs of the fires and prepare for the possible upcoming heat wave. The Sanctuary Supply Depot is holding daily donation times at Boneshaker Books (2002 23rd Ave S) in the Seward neighborhood from 4-6p.m. 

A recent Instagram post by Sanctuary Supply Depot notes the current needs to help support unhoused neighbors: Tents that hold 6 or more people, new socks and underwear, new t-shirts and undershirts, battery-powered fans, batteries (AA, AAA, C and D), tarps and bungie cords, lanterns and flashlights, over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and Tylenol, and clear plastic bins with lids. 

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