Metro Transit helping homelessness amid frigid temperatures
For those experiencing homelessness, Metro Transit is often a place of refuge from the dangerous cold. For years, homelessness has been a challenge to the Metro Transit system.
Since 2018, the agency’s Homeless Action Team (HAT) has been working to get people off the trains and buses and into shelters.
Inside the Blue Line on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, Sgt. Beverly Rodriguez with Metro Transit Police checks up on riders who appear to be sleeping.
“I’ll give them a tap on the shoulder and just ask them that they’re doing all right,” Rodriguez explained. “A lot of them are just sleeping but, you know, some of them might be drunk, some might be on some type of drugs.”
Rodriguez says a lot of the riders she encounters are unsheltered and rely on transit to stay warm. Rodriguez oversees HAT and spends hours on trains and platforms to connect people to services in hopes of getting them into shelters.
“We have what we call blessing bags. So our blessing bags will have hygiene products, they’ll have a snack, water, hat, gloves, something to keep them warm,” she explained.
Metro Transit General Manager Lesley Kandaras says since the unit began, the team has helped place hundreds into stable housing.
“Over the past several months, we’ve started expanding presence through our transit service intervention project, and that intervention project has brought on additional community-based organizations to conduct outreach and provide services to people,” Kandaras said.
Last week, Penny Arcos, a frequent rider who was previously homeless, said she is concerned about the agency forcing the unsheltered off the stations.
“I get it. There’s no place to go to get out of the cold or to get out of the elements except the train, except the bus,” Arcos said.
While Rodriguez admits she’s concerned about some of those people not having a place to go, she says there are options — but it’s going to take a lot of trust-building.
“I noticed from doing this job for a few years, that it takes so many interactions with an individual for them to actually receive services,” Rodriguez said.
According to Metro Transit, the homeless unit also works with city and county attorneys to address issues in someone’s criminal history that might preclude them from public housing.