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Ramsey County to open shelter space to deal with light rail overnight closure

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A rider boards a Green Line light rail train.
A rider boards a Green Line light rail train in August 2016.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2016

Depending on the weather, somewhere between 150 and 200 people regularly use the light rail as a homeless shelter. In August, the Green Line will stop running between 2 and 4 a.m., which would have those people left with no place to go. 

Now Ramsey County, along with two nonprofits, will offer more beds by opening its 64-bed emergency winter shelter months earlier in August.

"Homelessness in Ramsey County is increasing and we're very concerned about that," said Tina Curry, director of financial assistance services for the county, the department that operates the shelter. "Then we heard Green Line is going to be stopping their 24-hour service and we're very concerned about that."  

The Ramsey County emergency shelter will have storage lockers that people can use to store wallets, IDs and other valuables while they are there. But it will not offer meals and shower facilities. 

Two nonprofits, Catholic Charities and Union Gospel Mission, will help meet the demand. Catholic Charities will add 30 beds to its shelter downtown, and Union Gospel Mission as many as 20 beds. 

Dan Furry, spokesperson for Union Gospel Mission, said it's not entirely clear how necessary the expansion is. 

"We've always been ready to accept anybody who comes to our doors," he said, "and there are many days when we have capacity already. So, I'm not sure how much of an impact the closing of the light rail will have. That will remain to be seen."

Furry says the emergency shelter is only meant to be a temporary fix. Other programs are available at Union Gospel Mission for longer stays.