The death of 20-year-old Wade Redmond of Minneapolis this week is the second linked to the homeless encampment that has been rapidly growing in south Minneapolis, although it was not clear Friday whether circumstances at the camp played any role in the death.
Redmond died Monday at Hennepin County Medical Center, two weeks after suffering cardiac arrest at the camp, his mother, LaDonna Redmond, of Minneapolis, said Friday night.
LaDonna Redmond, who is running for Hennepin County commissioner against incumbent Marion Greene, said she will put her campaign on hold to grieve for Wade.
Wade’s death is the second with a link to the camp along Hiawatha and Cedar avenues, near the Little Earth housing complex. Alissa Rose Skipintheday, 26, died last week at HCMC after being found barely conscious at the camp, suffering from an apparent asthma attack.
Wade had been hospitalized in a coma for two weeks before family members made a decision to end life support, LaDonna said. She said she was “not yet ready” to talk about Wade’s presence in the homeless camp and the exact circumstances of the death, which did not involve foul play.
“Wade had a family and a home, but struggled with a number of issues,” she said. “I am not quite ready to say more about that, but I can say that the camp draws many people who do have homes but may struggle with mental illness, drug addiction and other issues in their lives.
“It’s not just people without homes who migrate to it,” she said. “Many people go there for a variety of reasons related to their specific lives.”
She said Wade identified as queer and preferred to be referred to by the pronouns “they” and “them.”
Relocation, not raids
The camp’s growth has concerned city leaders, who plan to move its 300 or so inhabitants to one or more provisional shelters with medical and social services by early October.
Dubbed the “Wall of the Forgotten Natives” because it is located along a highway sound wall, the tent camp houses a population that is largely American Indian, including some families and children. It has quadrupled in size over the past month.
Many of the tent dwellers say they have struggled to find affordable housing and feel safer living in a large group than sleeping alone on the streets or in emergency shelters. City leaders’ approach has differed from those in many other large cities, where authorities have used sweeps, raids and other punitive measures to break up camps.
But efforts to help people obtain stable housing have been complicated, because many camp residents have troubled rental histories, criminal records and addiction problems. Since mid-August, agencies have assessed about 100 residents, but only five individuals have actually been able to move out of the camp and into more permanent housing, according to Hennepin County.
‘Such an inspiration to me’
Redmond, 54, a diversity manager for the Seward Community Co-op and a self-described food justice activist who lives in south Minneapolis, is running against Greene in a district that covers the lakes area in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park.
On Friday, she said that Wade was the inspiration for her drive to bring food justice to poor and minority populations across the country. Wade was born with severe food allergies during a time when her family had little access to fresh and healthy food because of the absence of grocery stores in their Chicago neighborhood, she said. That situation led her to research better ways to produce and market healthy food.
For the past several years, she has spoken nationally on behalf of the food justice movement, including in a widely shared TEDx talk.
“Wade’s story has helped inspire millions of people,” Redmond said. “Wade was such an inspiration to me. He had so much power in his short life — he changed my life. We are just heartbroken to have lost him.”
She said that she has not yet decided when, and even whether, to resume her campaign for county commissioner.
Greene worked in health care finance and was a representative in the Legislature for a term before she won a special election for her County Board seat in 2014. She was re-elected and has championed causes such as a county-funded immigration legal defense fund.
A funeral for Wade Redmond will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 21 at Unity Church in Golden Valley. In addition to LaDonna, survivors include Wade’s father, Tracey Redmond, and a sister, Taylor.