MINNEAPOLIS — When a disturbed woman pulled a knife on Denise Deer earlier this month, she quickly herded her children into their tent. A nearby man stepped in and the woman was arrested, and within minutes, 8-year-old Shilo and 4-year-old Koda were back outside sitting on a sidewalk, playing with a train set and gobbling treats delivered by volunteers.

The sprawling homeless encampment just south of downtown Minneapolis isn't where Deer wanted her family of six to be, but with nowhere else to go after her mother-in-law wouldn't take them in, she sighed: "It's a place."

City leaders have been reluctant to break up what's believed to be the largest homeless camp ever seen in Minneapolis, where the forbidding climate has typically discouraged large encampments seen elsewhere. But two deaths in recent weeks and concern about disease, drugs and the coming winter have ratcheted up pressure for a solution.

"Housing is a right," Mayor Jacob Frey said. "We're going to continue working as hard as we can to make sure the people in our city are guaranteed that right."

As many as 300 people have congregated in the camp that took root this summer beside an urban freeway. When The Associated Press visited earlier this month, colorful tents and a few teepees were lined up in rows, sometimes inches apart and three tents deep. Bicycles, coolers or small toys were near some tents, and some people had strung up laundry to air out.

Most of the residents are Native American. The encampment — called the "Wall of Forgotten Natives" because it sits against a highway sound wall — is in a part of the city with a large concentration of American Indians and organizations that help them.

With dozens of people living within inches of each other, health officials fear an outbreak of infectious diseases like hepatitis A. Medical professionals have started administering vaccines. In recent weeks, one woman died when she didn't have an asthma inhaler, and one man died from a drug overdose.

For now, service agencies have set up areas for camp residents to get medical care, antibiotics, hygiene kits or other supplies. There's a station advertising free HIV testing, a place to apply for housing, and temporary showers. Portable restrooms and hand-sanitizing stations have also been put up.

But city officials know that's not sustainable, especially as winter approaches. At an emergency meeting on Wednesday, the city council approved a plan to use land that's primarily owned by the Red Lake Nation as the site for a "navigation center," which will include temporary shelters and services.