Violent squatters, unsafe living conditions: Residents of Minneapolis apartment building plea for help

Residents at a Minneapolis apartment building are fed up with violent squatters and unresponsive management that are making their building a dangerous place to live — and they want help from the city and the nonprofit that owns the property.

"I feel abandoned, and I feel like I'm living in a garbage dump," one resident, who asked us not to publish her name because she fears retribution, told us. That resident says she was assaulted when she tried to stop a squatter from stealing her mail, resulting in a broken bone near her eye. 

"I’m afraid to leave my room without pepper spray… I'm afraid that if I leave my room, it will be broken into, and my life has been negatively impacted for quite a while," she said.

When another resident, Deborah McConniel, moved into the building, Lonoke Apartments in Minneapolis’s Steven’s Square neighborhood, about four years ago, she thought it was a pleasant place to live.

"It was nice. We'd have barbecues outside and you could hang out with just about anybody in the building. It was pretty nice, bonfires even. It was really nice. And the neighbors all looked out for each other and it was pretty good to live here," she said. 

However, she says the situation started to change about a year ago when a couple of squatters started sleeping in the hallways. At first, she said management seemed responsive but then started coming less and less over the past four months. More people she didn’t recognize started showing up in the hallways, and in the laundry room. Used needles piled up by the dumpster. 

In fact, when FOX 9 went to the apartment building on Thursday to speak with residents, our crew was confronted by two people that don't appear to live in the building legally.

Records from the Minneapolis Police Department tell a similar story. In 2022, police were called to the building 67 times, the rate has skyrocketed this year. In the last three months and three days, police have responded to the property 79 times — with "unwanted person" being the most common complaint. 

Minneapolis rental inspection reports show 17 unresolved violations since last July. The city issued a citation last month after violations didn’t get fixed, including fire hazards and the disgusting common areas. 

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Residents say squatters are causing problems in their apartment building.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey praised the response of city staff. 

"City inspection staff do a great job monitoring property violations and they just recently completed a nuisance inspection of this property on March 27," a spokesperson from his office told FOX 9. 

The building is in Councilmember Jamal Osman’s ward. "There are so many violations from the property so I’m really surprised that we are letting this apartment continue operating in the city of Minneapolis," he told FOX 9. 

At this point, residents told us that the property management has stopped responding to complaints.

"And now I just feel like I'm cut off from everything. There's no communication at all, and it's a bad feeling to be in," another woman told us. 

The nonprofit Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative is part of the ownership group and its leadership told us they’re trying to improve the situation. "There has been an unfortunate delay in completing some repairs due to the presence of threatening behavior by unauthorized people in the property toward maintenance. We have asked the Minneapolis Police Department for support on multiple occasions."

McConniel wants the building to be fixed, but she hopes it’s not condemned.  She says waitlists for decent apartment complexes accepting Section 8 subsidies are long and she’d rather stay where she is.

"My biggest wish is that they’d clean the building up and make it safe again, so we don’t have to move," she said. 

Beacon pledged to fix all the violations by the end of this month.