MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The bitter cold is particularly dangerous for those who have no where to go.

Monday night, street teams with St. Stephen’s Street Outreach are out in full force searching for people who are homeless. They want to offer them a warm place to sleep.

This bitter blast comes at a time where homeless shelters are at capacity.

“We have about 120 people on our un-sheltered list and on really cold nights, we’ll only find maybe 10 or 15 that tough it out all night,” Joseph Desenclos said.

Some ride the bus or light rail to stay warm. For many, that’s the only way to survive in the cold, when shelters are full.

Gerry Lauer is the program manager at Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul.

“We are busting at the seems,” he said. “Our numbers over the last couple of years are up by a double digit percentage. We get about 250 each night.”

Thin mats cover the floor of the facility. This is where men and women will sleep for the night. A line of chairs is the only thing separating the sexes.

“We stay open whenever it reaches zero,” he said. “We decided we did not want to risk anything.”

Lauer said a lack of affordable housing is causing this flood of people looking for shelter from the cold.

“That really puts a burden on the shelter system, because there’s no place for folks to go,” he said

Overcrowding forced some outside this year. A tent city formed outside the Dorothy Day Center.

“The tent city kind of brought that question up: Where are people going to go?” Lauer said.

Cold weather is the best advocate for packing up the tent and coming inside. On Monday night, many tent city residents will call the overflow space behind the center home.

“It sure beats being on the streets with no place to go,” said Walker Munson. “It’s cold outside.”

Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul will expand in 2016.

It hopes to be just like the Higher Ground facility in Minneapolis, putting lots of resources under one roof.

They need the public’s help to make it a reality, and St. Stephen’s needs more eyes looking for those who need help.

 

Reg Chapman

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