Homeless and homeless advocates fight to keep Graffiti Graveyard open

By KBJR News 1

October 1, 2013 Updated Oct 1, 2013 at 12:20 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- It's an epidemic plaguing the Northland...

"We have a crisis of homelessness in the Duluth area," said Joel Kilgour, a volunteer for Loaves and Fishes.

This week a group of homeless people living at what's known as Duluth's Graffiti Graveyard were dealt another blow.

"We heard from the Duluth police department last week were that they are planning to evict this camp," said Kilgour.

The camp is a place that 46-year-old Samantha McKinney has called home since April. McKinney says she came down with an illness, is disabled and can no longer work.

"Ended up evicted in January, first time in my life at my age, with two children, and they put us out on the streets in the cold and me and my son ran around for two months sleeping in doorways and then we found down here," said Samantha McKinney, who has lived at the Graffiti Graveyard since April.

Now that three homeless camps have been evicted this week, McKinney worries about their safety.

"Really scared because I don't know what will happen for me where I will go, what's gonna happen," said McKinney.

On a typical night, at least ten people call the graffiti graveyard their home. McKinney calls them all her family, and one, in particular, like a son.

"Petty Officer First Class Isaac Broker, Afghanistan, medically discharged after one year," said Broker.

After being discharged, Broker did a stint behind bars in Duluth and has struggled with addiction. He had nowhere to go and was pointed to the graveyard, where McKinney gave him a tent and welcomed home with open arms.

"I consider this group my family because they have never rejected me, never put me down, they have never sent me away," said Broker.

Broker says he believes the choice to evict the homeless from the camp is wrong because many of them have nowhere to go, but he says no matter what they will stick together.

"It's in my heart to take care of them now," said Broker.

Homeless advocates from CHUM and Loaves and Fishes, along with many homeless people met with Mayor Ness in a private meeting to work toward a solution to homelessness in Duluth.