Last week the Duluth City Council voted to approve $300,000 in Federal COVID relief funds to hire a social worker through the Greater Downtown Council for the next three years. The social worker would earn a salary of $65,000 and the remaining funds would be used for resources to support the position.
Our site has been writing about the devasting impact of homeless people in Downtown Duluth and throughout Duluth for over a year now. Finally, organizations and the city are starting to wake up to the problem – but is it too little too late? What can one social worker do to mitgate the problems caused by, at last count, 612 homeless individuals in Duluth?
Kristi Stokkes, President of the Greater Downtown Council, admits that a social worker is “not a silver bullet” but instead a “tool in the toolbox” to help with the homeless crisis in downtown. Their primary job will be building relationship with the troubled homeless people and helping them find resources for mental health, addiction, and so on.
The unfortunate reality is that many of this population are homeless because they don’t want the help. And not even the most skilled super social worker could tackle the homeless crisis that Duluth’s leadership has swept under the rug too long in Duluth.
This weekend while events were happening in Canal Park, a homeless man strolled shoeless with ripped lounge pants between Canal Park and Bayfront Park. What a welcome for the couple celebrating their wedding at the DECC this weekend or the vendors and guests that paid a pretty penny to particate in Oktoberfest at Bayfront.
Our site receives photos of the impact of our or homeless population frequently – these are just the most recent. A “home” under a set of stairs. Damage to private property like fences cut or glass broken so the homeless can find shelter. And in the last photo homeless man sits on a street corner with his belongings as his daughter lays behind him, this photo was taken a few minutes after the man participated in a drug transaction in broad daylight.
When did all this become acceptible? What has to happen for Emily Larson and the city council to say “that’s enough”?