Shelters work to find more space for those experiencing homelessness as temps drop to dangerous levels

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The bitterly cold air expected in Minnesota over the next two weeks could be life-threatening for anyone experiencing homelessness. Agencies across the Twin Cities are now working together to boost shelter space during the prolonged cold snap.

"Anyone staying overnight outside now is very lucky to make it to morning," said Andrea Hinderaker, manager at Safe Space Emergency Shelter, which is run by the nonprofit Model Cities. "In the shelter world, we would say every night has been an important night, but this is when everyone’s awareness seems to peak because of the fatality rate that can come with the cold temperatures."

The city of St. Paul closed two encampments this week, calling those types of living conditions "life-threatening," with below-freezing temperatures and increased fire hazards from people trying to stay warm.

"With the encampments closing, that does increase the pressure on the shelters to make sure there’s room. That is tricky," Hinderaker said. "Our concern also is the increased level of trauma response within our shelters. Now, they’re getting very full and people’s reaction to that transition can go into all different directions."

The most recent city count shows around 100 people currently living in tents in St. Paul.

Hinderaker said Safe Space added 10 beds on Friday, boosting capacity to 74.

The shelter was full shortly after opening Thursday night and she expects the same thing to happen Friday, despite the increased capacity.

Hinderaker said she is already seeing people entering the shelter with frostbite.

"Many of our folks have experienced frostbite before so their risk level of experiencing greater trauma to their limbs is exponential," Hinderaker said.

Hennepin County recently added 200 emergency beds and is partnering with hotels to provide extra shelter. The county is also asking churches if they are willing to open as warming spaces during this cold snap. Click here for more details.