Gov. Walz Announces Initiative to Give Homeless Population Shelter This Winter
Nearly $5 million has already been raised for Winter Homeless Initiative
VIRGINIA, Minn. – Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (DFL) has launched a new initiative to help Minnesota’s homeless population find a warm place to stay this winter.
On a given night, more than 1,600 Minnesotans sleep outside, including 300 children. According to the Governor’s office, that number has doubled since 2015.
The Winter Homeless Initiative is a public and private partnership that has already raised nearly $5 million in donations to create more beds for people across the state.
Homelessness happens everywhere in Minnesota, including on the Iron Range.
“Between the Hibbing and Virginia shelters, we turn away on average sixty households a month,” said Jennifer Kuoppala, shelter manager at Bill’s House homeless shelter.
Bill’s House has helped more than 140 people in the past year.
“When they leave here, ideally they have the wrap around services that they are in need of and are moving into safe, secure, affordable housing,” said Kuoppala.
Jeffery Caperton has been at the shelter for almost a month. He says he’s now close to getting back on his feet.
“It’s helped me a hundred percent,” said Caperton. “I couldn’t ask for a more home environment than this place right here. I don’t even look at it as a halfway house or whatever you want to call them. I look at it as home.”
Gov. Tim Walz stopped by Bill’s House as part of his tour announcing Minnesota’s Winter Homeless Initiative.
“Especially this time of year it feels pretty good to see the state working together to solve this,” said Walz.
Nearly $5 million has already been raised statewide form public, corporate, and non-profit organizations.
“When we launched this initiative, the goal was to take sixty days to get where we needed to go. It took twelve days,” said Walz.
The Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency has gotten $20,000 from the Northland Foundation since the initiative began. The organization helps people in Northeastern Minnesota with transit, employment, and housing at places like Bill’s House.
“To have those additional funds, it’s huge. Literally it’s saving lives,” said Kuoppala.
Gov. Walz tells us the homeless initiative is part of a larger strategy to connect more people with long-term housing across the state.
“It’s very, very difficult to sit across from someone, look them in the eyes, and you have your shared humanity, to see this issue as anything but a math problem. Because this issue that homelessness is some type of a character flaw, that is simply not the case,” said Walz.
The Minnesota Homeless Fund has already provided an additional 150 beds at shelters across the Twin Cities area.
Gov. Walz says it’s just as important to address the homeless population in rural areas like Virginia.