Unsheltered-Facing Winter Crisis (Nov 9, 2020)

We know we haven’t updated “On-The-Street” for quite some time and we want to apologize. Many, many of you have continued to assist us with delivering meals and donating clothes and camping supplies for our friends outside and in motels. Thank you all for that. There have been so many of you that have contributed time, talent, funds, and goods. We plan to send a separate thank you “On-The-Street” in order to recognize you.

Many things have happened since the last update. The state funding that was paying for 48 of our 75 rooms ran out and we did not qualify for the new grant due to a lack of case management capability. Tri-Cap has stepped up to take on that portion of the program. The city has continued funding 20 of the remaining rooms and we are working with Benton County and Catholic Charities to provide social services to residents of America’s Best Value Inn under our program. An encampment has been established by folks experiencing homelessness and currently has around 16 tents. The city has agreed not to expel anyone unless an individual creates a health hazard. We commend the city for this. Catholic Charities, the Police Department, Park Department, CentraCare, Neighbors to Friends, Central MN Catholic Workers, multiple organizations, churches, and all of you, continue contributing to meet the basic needs of the unsheltered folks in our city. Thank you.

However, as we abruptly discovered two weeks ago, winter is coming. We learned from last year the devastating consequences that the brutal cold has on those lodging outside. Even during this brief cold snap, we have had two confirmed cases of frostbite and one case of hypothermia requiring hospitalization. Five toes have already been lost. Outside is not fun, it is an unforgivingly brutal exercise in survival.

St. Cloud is fortunate to have three shelters. Each of them works hard to provide a warm alternative for those without a place to stay. Last year two of them, Place of Hope and Salvation Army agreed to provide warming centers open to all when the wind chill reached 32 degrees or below. However, this year space is more limited because Covid has hit and forced us into social distancing. Last year we also used motels to shelter folks during the coldest weather. Motels are expensive, and the motel provided by the CDBG grant is at capacity. We do not feel right sending current motel occupants out into the cold to make room for those outside we want to bring in. It should be noted, motel properties are not low barrier, some of them won’t take many of our neighbors who are most afflicted by mental illness, chemical dependency and behavioral issues who lack ID’s or are on “do not rent” lists. These are the folks most likely to succumb to the ravages of winter.

Because of this, we are partnering with the NAACP to provide a new no barrier day and night warming center that will operate for the next six months. It will provide an additional option for those outside who are unable to access the other two warming centers at Place of Hope and
Salvation Army. We are asking you to support us in this effort. As you have supported our other efforts to make life a little better for those unsheltered in the past. A suitable building has been located, potential staff identified, beds, and social distancing dividers have been acquired. Now, the only barrier to becoming operational is funding. Rent and utilities come to approximately $3,000 a month. Added funding will be needed to compensate the night staff.

If grants can be found, applied for, and awarded, it will not happen before the cold weather returns.  Your help is desperately needed.  Daytime volunteers and money for rent, utilities and night staff person are urgently needed now.  Once these funds become available it would be possible to open in less than two weeks.  Can you help keep folks safe and warm this winter?  Those in the encampment and outside can only endure it for so long.  Then they will start to experience serious life-threatening health issues.  The colder it gets the more desperate this situation becomes.  It becomes a monumental task to just stay alive.  It is essential to get the warming center up and running as soon as possible.

The people, organizations and churches of St. Cloud have always been such an inspiration to us.  We were recently asked what motivates us.  The answer is our faith and our community.  It is you who motivate us.  You can always be counted on to step up to the challenge of confronting whatever crisis our community encounters with an expedient and determined effort to do what is best for our hometown and all its residents.

Your humble servants,

Harry, Mary and Troy

Donations can be sent to:

Homeless Helping Homeless

PO Box 475

Saint Cloud 56302

Or contact us to make a delivery at:

Phones 612-868-0465 or 320-309-2952

Email: hfleegel@aol.com

Website: homelesshelpinghomeless.org