Union Depot opens as emergency shelter another night, county leaders look for long-term solutions

St. Paul’s Union Depot will open for one more night as an emergency shelter from the extreme cold as Ramsey County leaders discuss what to do when this weather happens again.

Monday night, 70 people used Union Depot to stay warm. That number grew to 119 Wednesday night. All three nights, the city’s two permanent shelters were already full.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher believes using the facility saved lives and wants Ramsey County to establish a permanent cold weather policy. Ramsey County Manager Ryan O’Connor agrees that it’s something they should do, but says affordable housing is a huge part of the conversation.

“But we need to acknowledge this is not a long-term solution to ending homelessness to have people available to come spend time inside Union Depot,” said O’Connor. “We know we need more systemic answers. We want to be part of the solutions this legislative session and our county board stands ready to lead that.”

As for next week, when the forecast goes below zero again, O’Connor says they will play that by ear.