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Hundreds Experiencing Homelessness In Minneapolis Suffering Through Extreme Weather

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesotans without a home are doing what they can to stay warm.

Hennepin County tells WCCO it moved more than 400 people into permanent housing before the cold hit this year. But many will make the decision to stay outside in the bitter cold.

Wednesday night is a particularly dangerous one at encampments across Minneapolis. Avivo outreach workers Justin LaBeaux and Madi McLaughlin come with supplies, offering to help find shelter space.

"We all go out together every day and make the rounds and check on folks," LaBeaux said.

"Especially the oncoming weather that's gonna come in this weekend, a lot of people are preparing, trying to stay warm," McLaughlin said.

Wednesday, everyone they have talked to is planning to stay put through the night.

"Not every shelter option is gonna be right for everybody," LaBeaux said. "Some folks are worried about their belongings. A lot of folks have partners, too, and the shelter systems are mostly single adults."

They estimate hundreds across the city will spend the night outside -- sometimes staying warm in unsafe ways.

"A lot of people were asking for propane or trying to get heaters or generators," McLaughlin said.

"Blankets can only do so much when it's negative-6," LaBeaux said.

Minneapolis Homeless Encampment in Winter
(credit: CBS)

Some items that are particularly helpful on a day like Wednesday are hand warmers or foil blankets, which can be used to insulate the inside of a tent.

David Hewitt is director of housing stability for Hennepin County.

"We do have partners who in extreme weather open up some additional beds to help us manage any additional demand," Hewitt said.

Hennepin County says it has recently opened three new shelters, including Avivo Village. The 100-unit tiny home community is full.

The county says there have not been COVID-19 outbreaks at shelters, and they've been housing older and at-risk people in hotels. Shelters are also now open 24/7.

"We've invested probably about $3 million a year to ensure the shelters can stay open throughout the day, and are committing funds to continuing that into the future," Hewitt said.

Still, the goal and challenge continues to be finding permanent, sustainable housing for all.

"We're gonna continue to do what we can," LaBeaux said.

"A lot of people are just trying to make it through the night and through the cold," McLaughlin said.

Avivo says donations of hand warmers and big winter jackets are welcomed.

Shelter is guaranteed in Hennepin County for families with children. For information on adult shelters, call Simpson Housing Services at 612-248-2350. For information on family shelters, call 612-348-9410.

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