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DULUTH - Local agencies are working to count the number of Northlanders who are spending nights outdoors, but with everyone seeking shelter in these dangerous temperatures, a true number may not be possible.
“Tonight is the count and it’s deadly to live out there tonight. They’re going to be finding ways to hide from the weather. And they’re going to be hidden from the advocates that are out counting tonight. So it really won’t be an accurate number of homeless that are sheltered,” Kim Randolph, Stabilization Services Director for CHUM, said.
The point-in-time homeless count is federally required and happens in January every year.
According to St. Louis County officials, there were more than 180 unsheltered homeless in 2012.
Those with experience living outdoors, said the lack of homeless shelters and resources force them to look for alternative ways to stay warm.
“Just walking around the last few months, it’s been freezing. Sometimes the skywalks aren’t even open on Sundays, you can’t even get in,” Kimberly Ann Johnson, who has experienced homelessness, said.
“People stay warm through skywalks, 24 hour laundromats, heat vents that come from buildings. You’d be amazed, underneath bridges, they make makeshift spots to stay warm,” Reginald Daphnis, who has experienced homelessness, said.
And that’s exactly why, accurate numbers are important because federal funding and resources are awarded to communities based on documented counts of homeless persons.
“We have seen an increase in homeless. For our shelter, we have seen in the last two quarters, record numbers,” Randolph said.
St. Louis County will be collecting information over a 10-day period surveying where homeless people spent the night of Jan. 23.
County staff will be in the lobby of the government services center in Duluth Thursday for anyone who has information or are homeless and willing to complete a brief survey.