In an article on this site a couple of months back, we asked the City of Duluth “what’s the plan for the homeless this winter?” A few weeks ago local organizations like AIM Twin Ports and Loaves and Fishes Community along with concerned Duluth residents pitched tents to represent the 250 plus people that sleep outside each night in Duluth. The dire homeless situation throughout Duluth has been crying for attention for years.
The City’s response was nothing more than a band-aid: adding a warming center in West Duluth, open from 8 pm to 8 am on nights where the temperature drops below 32 degrees, on top of making the CHUM center on First Street open 24 hours. A feeble attempt at a plan, if you can call it that.
The early cold and snow in October brought the realization that adding a warming center was not nearly enough. Last week, downtown business and property owners began reporting that people who work for the city are asking them to donate space or entire buildings for CHUM to house the homeless, presumably for the winter.
Property owners that made Real Stories North aware of this situation were taken aback by the request. Not only have CHUM’s clients, and the behaviors and destruction they bring to downtown, cost property owners significant losses over the past few years as their tenants leave downtown, now the city wants to move the mess that littered the exterior of their downtown buildings inside them.
The City of Minneapolis tried this method during the riots this past summer, asking a Sheraton Hotel in Minneapolis to open its doors to the homeless to keep them safe. When the rioting ended the homeless refused to leave. They caused massive destruction in and outside the building requiring a dangerous public and police effort to clear them from the building, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs for the owner.
Multiple concerns about the homeless situation have been raised over the last year, and yet the city has taken no clear action to mitigate the problem which just seems to grow and grow as people from outside of the region move to Duluth. Recently, the Duluth Police Department worked to clear out the Point of Rocks homeless encampment. The Duluth News Tribune interviewed one of the homeless residents, Kelly Lane, a homeless woman who moved to Duluth from St. Paul in the last year to “try better luck”.
The News Tribune article also points out that Duluth was the first city in the state to sign a Homeless Bill of Rights (2014) that states, “It is not a crime to be homeless and that everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself or herself and of his or her family.” This coming 7 years after St. Louis County budgeted over a million dollars a year in an effort to endlessness in 10 years.
The city is at no loss for words when it comes to solving problems, but they sure lack the action to make it happen. It is frankly stunning that city employees are now “working” for CHUM in trying to gain more space for them to house the homeless with donated space and buildings after the city has spent years biting the business hands that feed them every time they assess more fees, taxes, and policies.
It’s time to get real in fixing a homeless problem that has grown far too large for our small city to accommodate.
Check back soon as we dig deeper into this topic.