By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Homelessness in Minnesota is up by more than 10% in 2019.

During this cold weather, there’s real concern about where those people can find shelter. There is a statewide push to provide more beds and permanent housing for people without homes.

“People essentially are using the light rail, and they are at various transit centers. A lot of people are in apartment hallways and doorways,” St. Stephen’s Street Outreach team member Chris Knutson said. “When it’s below zero overnight, we go out early in the morning, around 6, maybe a little earlier, and basically try to hit as many spots that we know people are at as possible. And also just kind of looking and making sure nobody’s laying in like an uncovered bus shelter or something like that.”

But they can’t guarantee everyone a place to sleep.

READ MORE: ‘Shelters Save Lives’: Gov. Walz, Lt. Gov. Flanagan Announce Winter Homeless Initiative

“Next week, we’re actually doing our overnight point-in-time count, so we’ll have a better idea of the total numbers,” Knutson said. “But there’s a lot of people on the streets right now.”

Shelter beds are at a premium, and there’s a push to keep victims of the fire that burned down the Drake Hotel in downtown Minneapolis from falling through the cracks. The goal is to not have the people, the couples, the families that were displaced by the fire pushed into the emergency shelter system — a system that is currently over capacity.

Gov. Tim Walz recently announced a Winter Homeless Initiative: Eighteen public, private and philanthropic partners giving almost $5 million in under a month to add shelter space and beds.

Some of the dollars have already been spent by Youthlink, allowing it to keep its doors open all night to offer overnight shelter to youth, and Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, which opened an overnight shelter for vulnerable women.

“Things are in place, but not at the scale that we need,” Knutson said. “There are still going to be a lot of people that are going to be outside.”

Reg Chapman