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Dangerously Cold Temperatures Test Homeless Shelters In Twin Cities

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The record-setting cold this weekend makes for extremely dangerous nights for people experiencing homelessness.

"The estimate is that there are about 20,000 children, adults and seniors who are homeless on any given night in Minnesota," said Rhonda Otteson, the executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.

In Minneapolis, the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center has had its "arctic overflow" beds in use for more than a week.

Trish Thacker, the Center's executive director, says the facility is at its full capacity of nearly 250 people, and she believes no one's been turned away.

"Honestly, what we're talking about is saving lives," she said. "The outreach workers and outreach staff for different organizations have worked tirelessly, [made a] concerted effort to reach people and get them into shelter if they wanted to come."

Thacker says Hennepin County is in good shape this weekend for getting people off the streets. Shelter, though, is only a short-term Band-aid fix in many advocates' eyes.

"The long-term question is people should have housing," said Tracy Berglund, the senior director of housing stability for Catholic Charities. "We shouldn't be in this emergency situation."

Otteson and the Coalition advocate at the legislative level for policy to address ending homelessness.

"This is a place of compassion, of smart people, of caring communities, and we do need state investments to make that possible," Otteson said.

Shelters are in desperate need of blankets and warm clothing.

How You Can Help

  • To donate to Harbor Light, click here.
  • For a list of daytime and overnight shelter options in Hennepin County, go to
  • Families in Hennepin County can call 612-348-9410 for shelter. Single adults can call 612-248-2350.
  • For a Minneapolis resource guide, click here.
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