DULUTH, MN– A sub-zero plunge had Duluth’s brand new warming center open at 10 p.m. Thursday with plans to stay open until 6:30 a.m. Friday.
“We’re enthusiastic to be able to provide space for people to stay warm at night. We recognize that homelessness is a serious issue in the city of Duluth, and what we’re looking to do here is to make sure we’ve got a safe space that is open to people who might otherwise be sleeping in a car or sleeping outside,” said Adam Fulton, Duluth manager of community planning.
Right now, the City only plans to open the center when temperatures dip below zero.
“That was the threshold we believed would result in us to be able to conduct the adequate level of evaluation of this pilot project,” said Fulton.
But that doesn’t take into account wind chill, and some think it should be open anytime it’s dangerously cold regardless of exact temperature.
The city, though, said they have to take into account the cost of being open more often.
“When we look at the average number of days below zero, we were thinking about that and making sure we had adequate funding too as we look at this partnership between the county, the city, and CHUM,” said Fulton.
They said they will continue to evaluate temperatures throughout the process, and when there are lower digits, they will carefully weigh their options.
Even though they’ve finalized the threshold at below zero, there is a possibility it could change.
“We don’t have a strong understanding yet of the magnitude of demand. But there are options… CHUM has a facility downtown for example. So we’re going to be looking at what this warming center can provide in our western neighborhoods,” said Fulton.
But Thursday night, The Homeless Person Bill of Rights called out the city for its temperature requirements for the warming center to be open. They said in part:
“If Superior, Wisconsin can have a center open at 19 or colder, why can we not mirror that standard? We have heard over and over about the care for homeless and impoverished constituents, and now when given a chance to do something we put needless limits on it.”
City officials said they would share information about which nights the center will open through several organizations.