The Winter of 2020-2021 was a busy but productive season for the St. Louis County departments that provide services to people who are experiencing homelessness.  While cold weather and a global pandemic provided a scenario for an increase in demand, collaborative efforts allowed the coverage that was needed.

With the cold season ending, officials with St. Louis County offered a snapshot look at the homeless situation in regards to aid and services.  Their report details:

"[a] total of 566 individuals accessed emergency overnight shelter this winter at the Duluth Warming Center and Chum Drop-in Center. The usage level was much higher than anticipated when the doors opened in November. Meanwhile, in northern St. Louis County, AEOA provided warming center services through emergency hotel vouchers. AEOA saw 82 individuals use warming center beds this winter. St. Louis County saw an 18 percent increase in homelessness in 2020 compared to 2019, with most of that growth in unsheltered homelessness. Based on usage of the emergency warming shelters the last few months, it is anticipate the increase in homelessness will be even higher once 2021 data is gathered".

The Duluth Warming Center closed for the season on March 31. For the past winter, it was located at the Rainbow Center, with additional space - when needed - located at CHUM.  Meanwhile, CHUM managed the operations of the Duluth Warming Center, in partnership with Duluth HRA and the Loaves & Fishes Community, with some additional support from the City of Duluth, St. Louis County, Duluth Transit Authority, and the Federal CARES Act.

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In addition to the usual food and shelter needs, this past winter season saw the Duluth Warming Center expanding its outreach and services to accommodate the needs resulting from the global pandemic.  The Duluth Warming Center partnered with the Lake Superior Community Health Center and St. Louis County for vaccination clinics and healthcare access - connecting homeless community members with key services that helped to keep them safe.  The county details that "32 people [got]...fully vaccinated and 22 additional people [got]...their first vaccination at the Rainbow Center location.

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