MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Stressing the dangers of winter cold on the homeless, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have announced the launch of a winter homeless initiative aimed at bringing Minnesotans without shelter inside.

On Thursday at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center in Minneapolis, Walz and Flanagan were joined by community, business and philanthropic leaders at the shelter to announce the Minnesota Winter Homeless Initiative.

The effort’s goal is to immediately increase shelter capacity across the state for homeless Minnesotans. Officials say the call to action has already spurred $4.82 million in investments from public, corporate and nonprofit entities.

“Every Minnesotan deserves a safe, warm place to sleep at night,” Walz said. “Yet from Minneapolis to Mankato, too many Minnesotans are without shelter in the winter. That is why our Administration is partnering with the private sector, philanthropic partners, and Minnesotans across the state to launch the Minnesota Winter Homelessness Initiative. Together as One Minnesota, we will bring our neighbors in from the cold.”

Officials say that on any given winter night, more than 1,600 Minnesotans sleep outside, including 300 children and youth. It’s a figure that has doubled statewide since 2015.

“This initiative is part of a larger strategy to develop more opportunities to connect people with long-term housing,” Flanagan said. “But right now, when temperatures are dropping to the single digits and people are trying to survive outside, we have to prioritize getting people somewhere safe and warm, period. Shelters save lives and shelters can play a critical role in helping people connect to long-term solutions.”

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation has since developed a Minnesota Homeless Fund and have leveraged $4.82 million in new dollars to bring people inside this winter.

The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center will see immediate impacts from the fund, with investments helping provide a safe space for 25 to 20 women overnight. Other entities that include Voice of East African Women in Ramsey County, Washington County churches, Youthlink in Hennepin County will also benefit from the homeless fund.

“Since the closing of the Hiawatha encampment a year ago, Minnesotans have been working together to understand what is needed to better serve our neighbors across the state,” Cathy ten Broeke, the assistant commissioner and executive director of the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness, said. “As part of our larger plan to prevent and end homelessness in Minnesota, this initiative will bring new investments, awareness, and urgency to the need to bring people inside this winter and beyond.”

In addition to contributing directly to providers who help those without homes, corporate and philanthropic investors can contribute to the Minnesota Homeless Fund on its website.

Erin Hassanzadeh

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