CHUM Warming Center set to open November 1
Despite challenges with staffing, CHUM plans on opening the Warming Center at the regular November 1 start date.
“The warming center first opened in 2018 as a response to the growing number of people living outside- a way to keep people safe in the winter. And frankly, prevent people from dying from exposure,” said Stepping On Up Duluth Project Organizer Joel Kilgour. “When we first opened, we were opened only when it got below zero overnight. As resources have become available, we’ve been able to open now every night from November 1 to mid-April.”
Being open during set dates rather than depending on the temperature makes it easier for everyone involved.
“That consistency is really important for people. We found when we were only open during certain temperatures, people would come to the center trying to get in and the door would be locked, and it was it was really an unfortunate situation,” said Kilgour. “But for the past three years, we’ve been able to be open consistently.”
Around 600 people experiencing homelessness used the warming center last winter. Kilgour said that despite the mild winter ahead, he expects the number to be higher this year as homelessness increases in the area.
“We have been neglecting our housing infrastructure for decades. This is not exclusive to Duluth. This has happened around the country. Housing has gotten less available and less affordable, and those are the greatest predictors of homeless rates in a community,” Kilgour explained. “The solution to it is fairly straightforward. We need to create housing for people, but because we’re decades behind and need thousands of units, that’s going to take some time. The city and the county in recent years have really taken started to take this issue very seriously, are working closely with nonprofit organizations, with the business sector, with the faith community, to start developing solutions, and we have exciting projects that are going to be coming along online in the next few years. New shelter beds and new housing opportunities for people who would otherwise be out on the street. In the meantime, because it takes time, because it takes resources to do that, we are bracing for another difficult winter here.”
Volunteers are always needed to help run the warming center.
“There are a lot of ways that people can plug in their volunteer shifts in the evenings and in the mornings to come and assist our staff, support our guests. Help with cleaning, helping with cooking hot meals,” said Kilgour. “We really need everybody to pitch in and whatever way that they can.”
For upcoming educational opportunities or for more information on how to become a volunteer or donate to the cause, you can go to the Stepping on Up website.