Duluth Warming Centers at Capacity as New, Larger Facility’s Opening Delayed

The new warming center in Lincoln Park was supposed to open in December, but COVID supply chain issues pushed that to February.

DULUTH, Minn- Duluth’s homeless population is truly feeling the pain from these types of cold nights. And that’s fueling a desperate call for more attention and investment in affordable housing — as a new and bigger warmer center has been delayed for months.

A new warming center in the lower level of the Lincoln Park Center is in its final phases of construction, months behind schedule.

“The original goal was certainly to have it open by November so that we were using it for the whole season. COVID supply chain issues impacted that ability to start,” said Jill Keppers, Executive Director with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Now the new facility on West 3rd Street is set to open on February 1st.

Inside: more space, and three new indoor showers and restrooms, all with handicap accessibility.

“Even getting it open in February will just give people more space and anytime we can get those hygiene facilities available this is just an extra assistance it’s something we haven’t had in Duluth before,” Keppers said.

According to the Executive Director, the facility was paid for by the City with about $481,000 in federal Emergency Solutions Grant money. It’ll be staffed by CHUM.

“So, it’s guaranteed that this space will be available for at least the next 10 years and maybe if we’re lucky by that time we’ll have solutions for homelessness in our area,” she said.

But the lack of housing in the cold is a problem plaguing the city in the present, with another bout of below zero temperatures set to move in.

Last month, the facility inside the Rainbow Senior Center downtown saw 50 people a night come in on average.

“The folks that we see generally need more than just housing they need that kind of support for their chemical health and their mental health so that they can survive and thrive,” said Joel Kilgour, Coordinator of the CHUM Warming Center.

“It’s more than 2 staff at the warming center who, that’s only open 12 hours a day can really provide,” he said.

And, Kilgour said, they’re still waiting for those who tough it out in tents for the beginning of the season.

“There’s some real severe downsides to that including exposure to the cold but it allows people some sense of autonomy in their own space, in a tent,” he said, “and some of those folks will just push it as far as they can until frostbite sets in until it’s just completely unsafe then we’ll see them showing up at the warming center.”

According to Kilgour, they don’t need any more donations of supplies; at this point cash donations to CHUM are encouraged.

They’re prepared to give anyone who needs it warm shelter, but stress more investment is needed for permanent housing — so this isn’t the norm.

“We’ve settled into this as an acceptable reality and that’s, it’s just simply not acceptable,” said Kilgour.

Categories: Community, Environment, Minnesota, News, News – Latest News, Public Safety, Weather in the News