December 18, 2018 07:02 PM
On any given night, more than 300 women and men will sleep at separate shelters at Catholic Charities' Higher Ground center.
It opened in January 2017, when homelessness was decreasing, but that’s no longer the case.
“What we are experiencing throughout the country and here in this region is a dramatic shortage of affordable housing, particularly for those with very low income, the people that we serve,” said Tim Marx, Catholic Charities CEO. “We're seeing people squeezed out of a very hot housing market and seeing more people on the streets.”
He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the community can see the effects on the light rail, where about 300 people spend the night. It’s also evident through the Minneapolis homeless encampment and the one shut down in St. Paul last month.
“Some people we believe went to our winter safe space, some people might be here but also what we have learned is that some of the people who were residing at that encampment had some of the most significant challenges,” said Marx.
He said they’re working to reach those people and provide them support services.
Marx said they started getting indications about a year-and-a-half ago the need for shelter beds may increase.
Now, they've submitted a conditional use permit application with the city asking for permission to add 24 additional floor mats to address the increased shelter demands this winter.
“When it’s cold, it is extremely dangerous,” said Marx.
They’re also asking to increase capacity next winter from 320 shelter beds to 356 at Higher Ground.
“So we have a contingency plan should we need it,” said Marx.
He told KSTP they also need to work on long-term solutions.
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“We need housing more available where [there are] jobs, where there is transit for people to be able to get between their jobs and where they live,” said Marx. “That's why we want to think about this on a regional and statewide basis.”
Catholic Charities is already having conversations with local and state partners to develop housing solutions. Marx hopes lawmakers will address the issue at the State Capitol this session.
Higher Ground is just one piece of the new Dorothy Day Place.
Construction is still underway on the Saint Paul Opportunity Center across the street, which will add 177 permanent homes for those in need. It will also be a hub for housing, health and job resources.
Work is expected to be finished sometime in 2019.
Updated: December 18, 2018 07:02 PM
Created: December 07, 2018 05:06 PM
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