CHUM’s warming center opens Tuesday, support still needed

CHUM preparing to open updated Warming Center
CHUM preparing to open updated Warming Center(Northern News Now)
Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 4:48 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- After a delay, CHUM’s newly renovated warming center in Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is officially set to open its doors Tuesday.

However, getting to this point has not been an easy process.

They were supposed to open their space in mid-October, but couldn’t due to a lack of staff and volunteers.

“I mean, I think everywhere is struggling to find people to fill positions,” CHUM Warming Center Coordinator Joel Kilgour said. “We’ve got a great team now.”

Kilgour and other recruiters were able to hire enough staff thanks to their network of community resources.

They reached out to schools and former staff to help get CHUM’s drop-in Warming Center open before the cold winter months.

“A lot of our folks have experience in similar fields, health care, nursing, and many people with personal lived experience of homelessness or substance abuse and are in recovery,” Kilgour said.

Now their newly renovated facility, which is equipped with updated showers, bathrooms, and a half kitchen, is prepared to take in about 100 people every night this winter starting November 1.

“The space itself is not particularly luxurious, like I said, we have some big open rooms,” said Kilgour. “People can come in and be warm, they can get a cup of coffee, they can get some food.”

While community leaders acknowledge the major step forward in bringing people across the city inside from the cold, advocates say the facility only scratches the surface of the housing issue in Duluth.

Thursday, the Damiano Center parking lot was packed for their Community Connect event.

“We had people outside at like 8:30 a.m. waiting in line for coats,” the Safe Haven Community Engagement Coordinator Jaci Christiansen said.

They handed out free winter gear and other resources to people in need.

“We’ve got mental health services on board, we’ve got recovery support services, we’ve got folks that are doing HIV screenings,” Christiansen said.

Even after all the hard work people like Kilgour and Christiansen put in, they agree with one thing: it is not a permanent solution.

“It is not the solution, and I don’t want to sugarcoat things,” Kilgour said. “This is not an ideal place for people living there on a mat on the floor trying to get as much sleep as I can in a crowded space.”

Both agree they need more community support.

“The fact that we have the most coats and boots that we’ve ever had because community members are donating coats and boots to the dining hall,” said Christiansen.

The warming center is located at 20th Avenue West and Third Street in Duluth.

Starting Tuesday, it will be open every night from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. through at least April 1.