Two weeks ago, 62-year-old Jeffrey Karl Weissbach called St. Paul City Hall with a complaint. He said a homeless encampment had come together near his home on Colborne Street in the West Seventh neighborhood. He wanted it gone.
One of Mayor Melvin Carter’s advisors said he’d forwarded the information to city staff, who were “hiring contractors to come and clean [the camp] up.” But the next day, according to a complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court, Weissbach called the city again... “approximately 10 times.”
“He was upset that the camp had not been removed and cleaned,” the complaint says, and he was “becoming increasingly angry” with every message.
“It’s all-out war and I will hunt you down and kill you like a dog,” one message reportedly said.
That was when the advisor thought it prudent to get police involved. When officers arrived, Weissman did answer the door—but only long enough to loudly complain about the camp, slam the door in the officers’ faces, and refuse to open up again.
An investigator got a hold of Weissbach on the phone. He confessed to calling the mayor’s office multiple times and leaving messages, and said that he’d been “angry and frustrated.” But he hadn’t threatened anyone’s life. He claimed he was being “set up.”
He also admitted to having two rifles in his home.
Officers determined Weissbach’s voice matched the recordings, and he was charged with making threats of violence with “reckless disregard” for the terror they might cause. As of Monday morning, he hadn’t yet appeared in court to answer to the allegations, and no attorney was listed in court records.
If the presence of homeless people is indeed a trigger for Weissbach, he's probably going to have to get used to it. This year, homelessness in Minnesota reached a record high.
A report released in March counted over 10,000 people living on the streets, in shelters, or even, as the Star Tribune reported, in “rural fish houses.” Over the past three years, homelessness has risen 9 percent in the Twin Cities, but jumped even higher—by 13 percent—in greater Minnesota. Volunteers are struggling to keep up with demand.
Though St. Paul does disperse camps, including a prominent encampment on Cathedral Hill last year, it does less to fix the problem than it does to move it around. As long as shelters are near capacity, apartments are either expensive or taken, and low-income wages lag behind rising costs of living, there's no easy way to keep the Jeffrey Weissbachs from becoming irate.