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As Winter Approaches, Twin Cities Officials Rushing To Help People Experiencing Homelessness

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Dropping temperatures have officials on both sides of the Mississippi River rushing to find housing for hundreds of people without shelter.

Many of them can be seen bonding together at pop-up tent city locations all across the metro.

Sheri Wessel and her friends Bonnie and Ramone spent Tuesday running by camp sites, set up by people who have no place inside to stay.

"It's hard to think that they are so cold at night, and they're lonely and they don't have people to help them," Wessel said. "We got blankets, we have pillows. For the women we have bras and undies and socks."

The encampments are hard to miss. One sits near Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue in St. Paul. Across the river, Van White Boulevard and 2nd Street North is where a new tent city has emerged.

David Hewitt is the director of Hennepin County's Office to End Homelessness.

"Right now we have about 200 more single adults in shelter than we would have had this time last year," Hewitt said.

Homeless Tent In St. Paul
(credit: CBS)

Three-thousand people each night are homeless in Hennepin County. Eighty-percent are housed, leaving more than 600 people a night sleeping where they can. The county is ready to bring 200 additional beds online.

"We're just not adding new capacity, we're adding different kinds of capacity with the explicit goal of trying to create spaces that folks who are not currently engaging with the shelter system as it exists," Hewitt said.

A shelter for the growing number of homeless Native Americans is set to open in days. AVIVO will also open its self-contained spaces for people to live within weeks, according to Ramsey County Manager Ryan O'Connor.

"It's been an all-hands-on-deck partnership that I don't think historically we've ever seen to this magnitude," O'Connor said.

Ramsey County is creating hundreds of beds for the increased need. Two park and recreation facilities, Harriet Island Pavilion and Duluth and Case Recreation Center will catch the overflow from the shelter system.

Space inside Bethesda Hospital, as well as Stub Hall on the Luther Seminary campus has been approved as lease sites for emergency and temporary housing.

The state and cities are partnering with nonprofits to make sure anyone who wants a warm place inside, away from sleeping in tents, has a place to go.


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