As Warming Center Opens, Concerns Arise

Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition Writes Letter to City

DULUTH, Minn.-  Thursday night marked not only the beginning of extreme cold, but the opening of a new warming center in Duluth.

Five people occupied warming center on the 5800 Block of Grand Avenue in West Duluth on Thursday.

While the city and the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights coalition, or HPBR, both consider that a victory, HPBR wants to sort out some discrepancies with the city.

They hope to do so quickly, to get as many people in as temperatures continue to drop.

After the center’s first night of operation the city said in a statement:

“The first night of the West Duluth warming center pilot project went off without a hitch. …moving forward, the city and its partners will continue to monitor and evaluate how things are going, and adjust course if needed.”

But the HPBR is taken aback by comments made Friday by City Council President Noah Hobbs, who said there was only enough funding to open the center for 14 days when the temperature dropped to zero degrees or lower.

But, according to the coalition, that was not agreed upon.

“The way we worked it out , it would be $25,000, just around that, a little more, for 45 days of operation,” said HPBR Advocate, Michael Elderbrook. “And with that we figured we’d be able to open it at 20 degrees.”

Now, Elderbrook wrote a letter on behalf of the coalition, voicing concerns about the city seemingly going back on its word.

“It’s just been very frustrating because we haven’t gotten a very good reason why they chose that low of a degree.”

Now, they want an explanation why, and where the budgeted money went.

“We got $50,000 worth of funding from the county for this project,” said Elderbrook. “So it’s just this discrepancy between what we projected for costs, getting much more than we projected, and then hearing from the city that we only have 14 days worth of funding.”

A predicament which leaves Elderbrook feeling discouraged.

“Y’know, kinda disappointed in just, sort of this broader pattern of how issues around homelessness and housing have been handled in the past few months.”

That mishandling turns deadly in these subzero temps.

“It’s also frustrating when people’s lives are literally on the line.”

FOX 21 reached out to Noah Hobbs and the city regarding Elderbook’s letter, but heard nothing back.

Still, the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights coalition wanted to reiterate, that they are very grateful and proud of what the warming center has already achieved.


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