Cold snap could be deadly for homeless in Greater Minn.

Deb Holman, Benny Taylor
In this Jan. 29, 2010 file photo, Deb Holman, street outreach worker for Churches United in Ministry and the Human Development Center, convinces Benny Taylor, who is homeless, to spend a night at a shelter in Duluth, Minn. Holman said she's been working extra hours recently to find people who are still sleeping outside.
Bob King/Duluth News Tribune via AP

As the cold snap continues, advocates for the homeless say they are worried about the safety of people living without shelter in Greater Minnesota.

Liz Kuoppala, who heads the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, said in rural areas, many homeless families live in their cars. When the temperature plunges below zero, many cannot afford to keep the engine running all night to stay warm.

"We've heard from some of our outreach workers, families are making their way to all-night places like Wal-Marts or McDonalds and just kind of huddling there and trying to stay warm and then moving on to another place," Kuoppala said. "But it's really tough to stay alive outside."

Duluth street outreach worker Deb Holman said she's been working extra hours to find people who are still sleeping outside. On Tuesday, she found one man outside in bare feet. She said the man struggles with severe mental illness and was taken to a hospital.

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Holman has also found people living in the woods with only a sleeping bag or a few blankets.

But she said she worries the most about the people she doesn't find.

"I always worry about these guys making it through this cold spell," Holman said. "And then feeling a sense of responsibility to go out there and try to help them, even if it's above and beyond, you know, the call of duty, because you know they're out there. So you have to try to do something."

Holman said about 70 people are staying at an emergency shelter in Duluth. The shelter usually serves about 50 people.

In contrast, providers in the Twin Cities say many homeless people moved into shelter earlier this winter. The Salvation Army Shelter in Minneapolis and the Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul have not seen significant increases in recent days.