Warming center gets a makeover in Lincoln Park – Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH — Before the start of renovations to the Lincoln Park space that will become the city’s permanent warming center, Jill Keppers stood in front of the construction crew with a message about saving lives.
“I hope that meant something,” said Keppers, executive director of Housing and Redevelopment of Duluth. “It certainly doesn’t end homelessness, but we can save lives.
The warming center is scheduled to open Feb. 1, replacing the Rainbow Senior Center’s current location in downtown Duluth.
“Our goal was always to try to be open for the full season,” Keppers said before outlining the elevator and door supply chain issues. “Fortunately, we still have the Rainbow Center. It didn’t interrupt people’s ability to have a place to stay warm and sleep at night.
During a tour of the new space last week with the News Tribune, Keppers explained how the Rainbow Center regularly sees capacity with 50 people per night using the warming center.
“This place is a little bigger, has a little more capacity, but honestly the capacity is almost based on the number of staff available at CHUM,” Keppers said, referring to the Duluth shelter that runs the warming center. . “I don’t know if they could even take more people with the extra capacity.”
The warm-up center is in its fourth season, and the Lincoln Park location is set to be its last iteration for some time. The funding came from federal COVID-19 assistance received by the City of Duluth in the form of a $487,000 Emergency Solutions Grant. Use of the grant triggered a 10-year guarantee that the renovated facility will remain a warming center, Keppers explained.
During the tour of the 5,500 square feet of space, Keppers unveiled new laminate flooring, large open spaces where people can lay down a CHUM-provided floor mat, and one of the most treasured additions to the city’s homelessness crisis: showers. The new center features a series of showers, including accessible showers, the city’s first permanent hygiene facilities for people experiencing homelessness. Last year, Damiano Center provided a temporary trailer on a trial basis that was not usable in winter, Keepers said.
“When we did that, one of the things that was defined as a need was hygiene facilities,” Keppers said.
Showers, like the center, will only be available in the evening and at night, and CHUM staff will have key controls of the facilities, so they can monitor and prevent unwanted behavior.
John Cole is the CEO of the CHUM. He recently led a group of civic and business leaders on a Twin Cities homelessness solutions tour. This was a tour focused on more permanent solutions, such as small house communities, than those offered by the warming center.
“The new location of the Warming Center increases our ability to meet the urgent needs of the homeless homeless population,” Cole said. “We are delighted to be able to do this, but it requires an increase in staff and resources.”
Cole noted that collaborations with other service providers could help leverage this larger opportunity, and noted that financial support from the community remains a necessity.
Asked how Lincoln Park Center, which faces Third Avenue West between the HRA’s Midtowne Manor towers, was identified to take over as the city’s warming hub, Keppers called it a underutilized space.
“There were art classes going on here, and maybe there was bingo every once in a while, but it was definitely an underutilized space,” she said.
The warming center includes new sprinkler and heating systems, as well as a coffee corner. An adjacent laundry room will be used to provide clean bath towels to people using the facility.
Fully code compliant as a shelter, the warming center will not provide food or maintain daylight or daylight hours. In the summer, the space will be used for other community needs such as YMCA youth programming, Keppers suggested.
The warming center’s brief history has seen it bounce from the Spirit Valley neighborhood of West Duluth, to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in East Hillside, and now the Rainbow Center.
Lincoln Park Center is ending yearly frustrations with the location of the shelter, which no longer has temperature limits when it opens. On the contrary, it is open all winter.
“We couldn’t keep struggling year after year to figure out what to do,” Keppers said. “I am delighted with this space. I’m really happy with it.