In the last month I have been so impressed by the many ways our community has organized to protect and care for itself when public systems fail to do so. The Indigenous Peoples Task Force is founded on this principle. With the pandemic, outbreaks of HIV and HepC, high rates of addiction and suicide, and a homeless encampment on our block, our staff are busy doing their best to meet these challenges and build a healthy community. I'm writing to share some highlights of our work.


Homeless Encampment & Public Health Crisis in Our Neighborhood

In the last month an encampment of unsheltered people began on the vacant lot next to the Indigenous Peoples Task Force office in the Phillips neighborhood. There are currently about 60 tents in the camp. We are working to keep the people in this encampment safe from COVID, HIV, and violence.

COVID: We have got confirmation from the State that we have several COVID positive cases in the encampment. Healthcare for the Homeless has been helping people who test positive get into the isolation hotel to recover. Unfortunately, because of other challenges faced by those in the encampment, not everyone is willing to wear a mask or wants to get tested so the disease continues to spread.

HIV: This winter we saw an outbreak of HIV in our neighborhood and infection numbers continue to increase. Many of the people in the encampment are at a high risk for HIV and this is another reason why we are being vigilant about getting people into shelter or housing as soon as possible. If someone is HIV positive they cannot afford to get sick and are particularly vulnerable when living conditions are cramped or unsafe.

Violence: We are working to protect the people in the encampment from any violence that may be going on in the neighborhood. We have installed a fence around the encampment as a form of protection. As the saying goes “good fences make good neighbors.” There have been a few instances of nearby violence and the police are not always responsive. Maintaining a daily check-in with the people at the encampment has been an important way to stay on top of public safety issues.

Indigenous Peoples Task Force has worked to find housing for people and there are several good opportunities for those who test negative for COVID. We are helping connect people with medication assisted treatment (MAT), PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to reduce the change of being infected by HIV for those at high risk, and outpatient treatment. For more information contect our Outreach and Housing Navigator, Lisa Kaste, at 612-849-6928 or our Syringe Services and Medication Assisted Treatment Navigator, Abiel Gebrehiwat at (612) 968-7891.

Our unsheltered neighbors in this encampment are too often forgotten. We ask you to see them, remember them, and help us protect them.

Inspiring, Comforting, and Encouraging our Community Through Bus Shelter Designs.

Keep the Fire Alive Program has 3 bus shelter designs throughout the city from June 29th to September 20th. The designs are inspired by youth poetry and trainings the staff have attended. We hope that these cultural messages inspire and provide comfort that they are not alone. We encourage the community to open up about thoughts of suicide they may have and talk with their family, or use the resources available in Hennepin County.

Meet Our New HIV Programs Manager: Calvin Hillary

Calvin Hillary joins IPTF as our HIV Program Manager: He’ll be working with our HIV and HEP C
Prevention, Care, and Treatment, Syringe Services, Narcan Training and Distribution, as well as
our Emergency Housing and Navigation Services programs. His work will help deepen and expand our comprehensive community wellness care and treatment model that prioritizes wholeness
through our cultural specific framework. Prior to IPTF, he spent a decade working with youth
and families from diverse socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and immigration status around HIV and
HEP C prevention, care, and treatment, economic mobility, community mobilization and
development, and workforce development. Calvin Hillary is thrilled to be working at IPTF
primary because of our wholistic approach to community wellness, that prioritize cultural
values as means of healing.
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