A 23-year-old woman who recently moved to a large homeless camp in south Minneapolis died of an apparent drug overdose this week, the fourth death in less than two months at the camp.
Argentina Zarcarra Taylor was found unconscious and not breathing in her tent at the camp at 7:39 a.m. Thursday, and was rushed to Hennepin County Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Family members said Taylor had struggled with substance abuse and had left a residential drug treatment center in south Minneapolis just a day earlier. She came to the encampment seeking drugs, they said, and was injecting heroin on the morning of her death. The official cause of the death is still under investigation.
Her death is expected to renew concerns about safety at the sprawling homeless encampment near the Little Earth housing project, which since the summer has become the temporary home of approximately 200 men, women and children. Despite an intensive outreach effort by local health agencies and American Indian nonprofits, heroin and methamphetamine use is common at the camp, and overdoses have become an almost daily occurrence, outreach workers have said.
In late September, a 51-year-old mother of eight who was living at the camp died from an overdose of fentanyl and methamphetamine, according to a Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office report.
The deceased woman’s father, Tobias Taylor, of Brooklyn Park, said the encampment has become a magnet for young people struggling with addiction. “It’s a drug house without walls and everyone knows it,” Taylor said after attending a vigil for his daughter at the encampment on Friday afternoon. “People who are homeless and in despair and are living a desperate life know they can go [to the camp] and get all the drugs they need.”
Taylor said that his daughter arrived at the camp on Monday, less than 24 hours after she had been sent to a drug-treatment center upon being released from a Plymouth workhouse, where she was incarcerated on drug-related charges. The treatment center was just a short walk from the crowded encampment on Franklin and Hiawatha avenues in south Minneapolis.
“When she got out [of jail], they sent her right back to a ‘drug zone’ where all the addicts live,” said Nadia Taylor, her stepmother. “If they had sent her to a treatment center further away, she might be alive today.”
Tobias Taylor said he visited the encampment Friday and found used needles and bloodied tissues in his daughter’s tent. While he was collecting her belongings, Taylor saw someone shooting up heroin nearby, he said. “The situation is out of control,” he said.