As Temps Drop, CHUM Proposes Warming Centers

CHUM Asks Council to Consider Proposal As Their Space Decreases

DULUTH, Minn.- As the extreme cold starts setting in, finding a warm, safe place to sleep becomes a serious, and even deadly challenge for Duluth’s homeless community.

According to CHUM, more warm shelter options are needed in the city of Duluth, especially during a deep freeze.

Last winter, 42 nights dropped below zero.

In those conditions, it can take only minutes for frostbite to set in.

Despite being a cold weather climate, the city of Duluth currently does not have an emergency cold weather response plan in place.

Now CHUM, the only facility in the city which takes in people living outside to sleep overnight, says that’s got to change.

In a letter to the Duluth city council, CHUM Executive Director Lee Stuart is proposing the opening of various community centers in the city for overnight shelters, when needed.

She has not yet identified an official temperature to begin letting people in, a matter she said should be decided collectively with other forces in the community.

Stuart said the potential shelters could let people in under the same guidelines CHUM does: non-violent, and relatively sober.

According to her, it’s a conversation that’s long overdue.

“People are very resilient, and strong, really, in figuring out how do you survive outside in Duluth over the winter. And I’d like to give them more options than that,” she said.

“CHUM can’t do it on our own, but Duluth has always been generous that way.”

Stuart is hoping to get key city leaders in a room to begin discussing a possible plan of action.

She will begin gathering input by speaking with the Affordable Housing Coalition on Tuesday, as both organizations are determined to reduce the almost 870 households waiting for housing, considered unsheltered.

Meanwhile, she reassures that CHUM will never turn anyone away despite how full they get–there’s always more pads for the floor when beds are full.

They’re even working to have a separate room for the mildly intoxicated, provided they “are willing to stop partying and rest.”

But having more warming centers, could bring in so many more who find themselves stranded in the cold.

“So that if the bottom is dropping out in the thermometer, and they think they’re okay in their tent, but then all of a sudden they realize that it’s not going so well–to have a place that they can get to.”

Stuart is not asking for any services to be performed at these warming centers, just a safe place people can stay overnight, staffed by employees she said could be trained at CHUM.

In terms of cost, based on what CHUM pays its employees now, Stuart estimates that running one shelter will cost roughly $40,000 per year.

A number that, she said, should be very doable.

She hopes to have one warming station stationed on the east side, and one on the west side of Duluth, to be more accessible for homeless people across the city.

Meanwhile the Mayor’s office says that they’re working with CHUM and other advocates for warming center options.

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