On Air
Open In Popup
MPR News

Success -- and remaining challenges -- in addressing homelessness in Duluth

Share story

How to address homelessness is fast becoming a focal point in many major U.S. cities, including Minneapolis, where a new navigation center for those living in a large homeless encampment opened this past week.

But smaller cities and communities are also dealing with the issue — and it's not always in plain sight.

Lee Stuart is executive director of CHUM, a nonprofit in Duluth that provides services for those in need of shelter. When asked about the biggest hurdle to ending homelessness, Stuart's answer was clear: "Money. There's certainly plenty of political will but there's not the funding for it."

Stuart said there are approaches to addressing homelessness that have a proven track record, including the New San Marco apartments in Duluth for people with chronic substance abuse issues.

"That's been running for about 10 years," she said. "It's kept people housed, it's safe, it's harm reduction, it works."

But there is not enough room for people who could benefit from its services.

Some positive signs: Stuart said police in Duluth are no longer treating homelessness as a criminal issue. A new warming center is set to open in the western part of Duluth, to complement facilities downtown.

And there have been changes at CHUM, too.

"As the need has grown, CHUM has shifted what we do. We've increased the number of beds. We've lowered the ... barriers to people entering shelter," she said. "We don't have an absolute sobriety rule any more, and we can even allow a limited number of companion animals, trying to encourage people to come into shelter."

Stuart said a CHUM staff member will be traveling to Minneapolis in the coming week to visit the new navigation center, and see if there are any innovations that could be used in Duluth.