CHUM's efforts to keep homeless safe during winter with warming centers | www.WDIO.com

CHUM's efforts to keep homeless safe during winter with warming centers

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: October 29, 2020 07:17 PM

CHUM has efforts in place to keep the homeless safe from the frigid cold ahead. Warming centers will be opening next week. CHUM executive director Lee Stuart spoke about how this will look with COVID-19 and what they hope for the future.

"Hopefully I’m going to find someplace within because as of still right now I’m still sleeping outside," said Steven Petruk of Duluth. He is homeless and is worried about where he can find safe shelter as the weather gets colder.

"I have a tent and a couple sleeping bags and that manages to stay warm enough, but minus 20 is on its way," said Petruk.

"We know that there are probably 150 to 200 people living outside," said Stuart.

Stuart said CHUM will keep its doors open as a warming center.

"CHUM is always going to be open 24 hours so people can have the option of either having a bed or using the drop in center as a warming center," said Stuart.

The City of Duluth, in partnership with St. Louis County, CHUM, and Loaves and Fishes, will open City Center West again as a second warming center located at 5830 Grand Avenue. The DTA is offering free transportation to and from there.

The Warming Center, on nights where the National Weather Service predicts that the temperature will drop to 32 degrees or below, will operate from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Activation of the warming center for any specific night will be determined by the City of Duluth and shared through CHUM staff.

"I think we had something like 600 different visits in the first year and many more the following year so it's a critical piece of the life saving shelter capacity," said Stuart.

Stuart added there’s new health protocols in place to keep everyone safe.

"We do have the mask rule and we're upgrading the bathrooms and kitchen for sanitary reasons to make it easy to sanitize and we're installing curtains and barriers between the beds and in the dorms where we can," said Stuart.

If an outbreak were to happen at the warming centers, Stuart said they have isolation and care facilities.

Stuart added they are grateful for the warming centers, but said this is only a temporary fix.

"The solution is permanent housing and of course until we get there we will have warming centers, we will have encampments, we will have shelters," said Stuart.

Due to the demand, CHUM is currently searching for an additional space to rent as an additional warming center.

"I'm looking for a place that could be 24 hour or a daytime place where people could go. A gym or a hall or something that we could rent to meet this need better than we can and have before. It needs to be 3,000 square feet and have access to bathrooms and the closer to a bus line the better," said Stuart.

Those interested in helping or who have a space available can call CHUM at 218-720-6521.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

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