Hidden in the Hills - Homeless Villages in Duluth - Part One
"It was shocking. I mean, it was like a - this is the city of Duluth. But there's a city living within the city, and that city is the homeless people," described Rick Moody, a Duluthian and homeless advocate. In a special two-part report, FOX 21's Dan Hanger brings you an eye-opening look at what's "Hidden in the Hills" of Duluth – a place homeless communities call home, with the hope of one day getting back on their feet.
Some of these communities are set up in the heart of the city – just a couple hundred feet from homes and busy downtown roads – and homeless advocates say there are more of them today than ever before.
The two-part series is meant to enlighten you about what's really happening in cities across the country, and how communities as a whole are desperately needed to help reverse the trend.
"Brings tears to your eyes in this day and age," Moody said. "The thing is, we're not far from traffic, yet nobody would know unless you come up here."
Moody has hiked Duluth hills for years looking for deer antlers.
He's come across the homeless at times but says he's never seen it like this.
"I was dumbfounded. It's like, how can this be? In this day and age ... people living in the woods ... winter time ... I can't fathom that," Moody explained.
As you walk up the hill of this particular little so-called village, there's either a current story unfolding -- like a man's well-kept shelter – or a story of leftovers from some who may be in another state now or not alive anymore.
"It could happen to anybody. That's the whole thing. Maybe some of these people were better off at one time in their life and then certain circumstances come along and unfortunately they become homeless," Mood said.
"In a community as compassionate as Duluth, we have homelessness, but the reality is, homelessness is in every community across the country," said Daniel Fanning, Community Relations Officer for Mayor Don Ness' office.
Fanning says there's a recent, revived effort throughout the city, county and state agencies to end homelessness, but he says it's not an easy task with an overnight solution.
"It's jobs, it's housing, it's all those issues. And again, it's a very complicated, comprehensive issue that we are willing to address and we are addressing, but it's going to take time. It's going to take community buy-in and involvement," Fanning said.
Meanwhile, Moody said he hopes his findings will make Duluthians think twice about throwing out old clothes and turning the shoulder to the homeless community who very well might be your neighbor.
"[It's] important for people to know that they may be people living in your own backyard near you that you don't even know about who need help. There's always someone else who has more problems that we do," Moody explained.