Fighting for housing equality: Duluth’s first permanent warming center opens in Lincoln Park

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The city of Duluth now has a permanent warming center to aid in the fight against homelessness.

With funding from St. Louis County and CARES act allocations, the Lincoln Park Center has been renovated to serve homeless individuals in need of shelter during colder months.

Celebrating with a ribbon cutting Monday afternoon, The Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Association alongside of Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce officials highlighted the value of a permanent space to house the homeless in the winter.

"For the last four years, every year we meet at the beginning of the fall and say ‘What are we going to do this year? Where are we going to be able to help people stay warm?’" said Jill Keppers, Executive Director of the HRA. "The HRA already owned the Lincoln Park Center and it was just an underutilized space."

After a nearly half-million-dollar investment, The Lincoln Park Center is now open from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m, seven days a week, from November 1st until April 1st.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson saying that having a specific place to rely on for these operations each year benefits both the people planning its operations and the people being served.

"What’s nice about this is people have a sense of where this is going to be. We can build staffing models around this, we can outfit it and make sure that there are enough supplies that people need."

CHUM will be providing staffing and operations for the center throughout the year. Representatives saying that, although this warming center is a step in the right direction, it does not solve the over-arching problem of housing inequality in the Duluth area.

"This is a temporary solution. The real thing needed is housing," said John Cole, CHUM Executive Director.

"We know it will take a little while to get there and we’re so glad that we have this space so that, in the meantime, while we wait on those other initiatives of housing to be created, folks can have a safe place to stay and to be out of the cold."

In terms of future housing initiatives, Keppers noting that the HRA’s recent award of $14 million in housing infrastructure bond will be used to help build 70 units of affordable housing for people who are at 50% of the area median income or below.