Twin Cities outreach teams help those experiencing homelessness in bitter cold

As the temperatures reach dangerously cold levels, advocates are reaching out to those experiencing homelessness. (FOX 9)

The Salvation Army says more than 1,000 people in the Twin Cities were experiencing homelessness going into this stretch of bitter cold weather. 

Outreach teams are now working overtime to provide resources to anyone living outdoors.

"It kind of reminds me, going back a few years, to the polar vortex," Catholic Charities of St. Paul & Minneapolis Director of Housing Stabilization & Opportunity Chris Michels said.

With subzero temperatures and dangerously cold windchills, this weather is brutal. 

"It’s horribly unsafe for anybody to be out for prolonged periods of time right now," Michels said.

For people experiencing homelessness, it can mean life or death.  

"When you go out to warm up your car or check your mail, think about how happy you are to run inside," Salvation Army Harbor Light Center Executive Director Trish Thacker said. "What if you couldn’t?"

"It’s really really hard on a body to have to be outside all day, to have to be homeless, to experience the recurring trauma of that," Thacker added.

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Twin Cities Salvation Army are two of many organizations expanding their spaces for those without a place to stay.  

"In the last two nights across Catholic Charity sites we’ve probably bought in 50 more people from the outdoors," Michels said.

"When the cold weather came in we opened up an additional 25 artic overflow beds," Thacker said.

Both organizations expect more people to come throughout the week. But it’s not just about finding more space, as much as it is spacing people out. 

"COVID makes this different too, because every space that used to be open has had to, for the most part, reduce some of their numbers in order to keep people safe," Thacker said.

Homeless shelters are also enforcing physical distancing, constantly cleaning, and using PPE. And they have a message.  

"The people experiencing homelessness don’t go away when the weather improves, they’re always there," Thacker said. "If we can use this moment of heightened sensitivity to their situation and help it move us towards more action, I think that that would help everyone."

Click here for more information on where you can go if you’re in need of a place to stay.

 In Hennepin County, an application called Waypoint connects people experiencing homelessness to the services they need. 

If you'd like to support Catholic Charities of St. Paul & Minneapolis, click here to learn how you can volunteer your time or contribute to the organization financially.

If you'd like to support Twin Cities Salvation Army, they accept donations of socks, underwear, blankets, or other personal items at the front desk of the Harbor Light Center. You can also contribute financially by clicking here.