Shelter from the cold — how you can help now

Screen shot from Dorothy Day Center video

UPDATED 1/4//2014 - scroll down for added info • With temperatures below zero most of this week, and on schedule to dive even lower next week, what happens to homeless families and individuals? Usually, shelters shoo people out in the morning, allowing them to return in the evening. But with highs of 25 below zero, that's not practical. In cold weather, says Stephen Horsfield, "We now have confirmation that St Stephen's Human Services will also be keeping their shelters open, along with us at Simpson Housing Services, our friends at Our Saviour's Housing and The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, Minneapolis keeps open as a warming center on cold days like these."

That's tough to do, because shelters are stretched to the max even on normal days. Speaking at a recent memorial for the 147 Minnesotans who died while homeless in 2013, Horsfield said: "We’ve seen our shelters overcrowded or over capacity for the last three years."

Homelessness remains a huge problem in Minnesota, with the number of homeless people in the state estimated at 14,000 on any given night. Federal budget cuts to housing assistance programs make housing low-income people even harder. According to a recent report, "Over half of the Minnesota agencies administering HCV [Section 8 Vouchers] expect their waiting lists to exceed two years by January of 2014. Sixteen percent have a waiting list that already exceeds six years."

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service warns that "wind chill values near minus 25 degrees mean that frostbite is possible within 15 minutes." Monday's forecast is for absolute temperatures of minus 15 to minus 25, before factoring in wind chill.

The Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul will also stay open all day. It has space for 208 people on the floor, plus some beds in a women's program upstairs. Gerard Lauer of Catholic Charities says Ramsey County is working on a plan to shelter even people who have been barred from other sites because of misbehavior of one sort or another during these dangerously cold times.

Lauer said that there should be enough shelter spaces available at the beginning of the month, when people have more resources. But, he said, "about the middle of the month and forward, we go beyond our capacity... We are going to be opening an overflow shelter at the middle of the month so we don't have to turn people away in January, February and March."

You can help

As staff at shelters work to provide a safe place for homeless families and individuals, they need help. Cash, of course, is always welcome, and allows buying food at cheaper prices than you can get it in the grocery store, as well as necessities like heat and electricity for the shelter. Beyond cash:

If you'd like to add your shelter to the list, just add a comment below. If you are looking for shelter for yourself or someone else, call the Metro Shelter Hotline toll-free, 1-888-234-1329, 24 hours a day.

And one more request

From the Saint Paul Police Department - "We are concerned for the safety of everyone and ask that if you have elderly or disadvantaged neighbors please take time to check on them to help keep all of our residents safe."

NOTE: Governor Mark Dayton also ordered public school closures across the state on Monday, due to the extreme cold. 

UPDATE 1/4/2014

Friends, as you all know it is cold and getting colder. There are a few changes to warming area times that I wanted to let you know about. 

Most shelters will be open on Sunday and Monday during the day for current shelter guests, if you are working with or know someone who is staying in shelter, please ask that they check with the shelter where they are staying to confirm extended hours.

The salvation Army Harbor Light is open 24 Hours Sunday and Monday for anyone who needs a warm space. 1010 Currie Ave, just west of the Greyhound station. Other salvation Army warming centers will be open Monday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m at:
2024 Lyndale Ave N, Minneapolis
2727 Central Ave., Minneapolis
1604 East Lake Street, Minneapolis
1019 Payne Ave, St. Paul
401 W. 7th Street, St. Paul
10011 Noble Parkway, Brooklyn Park
10347 Ibis Street NW, Coon Rapids
2080 Woodlyn Ave. Maplewood

The Opportunity Center will be open Monday 7:00am-4:30pm. 740 East 17th St.

The Basilica will be open on Sunday as a warming space, but closed Monday.

Libraries currently are planning on being open regular hours. Please visit for info on individual branches.

YouthLink will be open extended hours and overnight for youth in need of a warming space. YouthLink is located at 41 North 12th Street.

The St Stephens Outreach team is currently doing safety checks in camps and with those who are outside, and will continue this work through the weekend to offer options and safety gear. If you come across someone who is outside and needs assistance, the outreach team is available at 612-879-7624.

If you need info on resources that are not included on this email, simply dial 211 to call the United Way’s First Call for Help. 

Feel free to post on this page any openings or closing related to the weather. Check Heading Home Hennepin’s Facebook page for instant updates:

Stay warm.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

POINT(114.177987 22.321702)
  • In future such articles please include what Listening House in St. Paul is doing such as expanded hours and services plus whatever donations they need during this extreme weather period. 651-227-5911 They've been providing daytime shelter and services to homeless adults for 20 years and are often overlooked in such articles. Thanks. - by Katherine Werner on Sat, 01/04/2014 - 12:52pm
  • I have been going to St. Stephens Shelter for Homeless Men for 7 years, once a week, to mend the belongings of the residents, I am telling you because there is a need for other shelters to have their "Sewing Lady, or Man" to fix their back packs, shorten their pants, mend torn shirts and jackets, and sometimes fix a zipper. Please volunteer and make arraingements to fulfill the need for helping, similar to what I have been doing. If you are interested, call St. Stephens to get some helpful info for getting starting. - by Ruth Bernstein on Sun, 01/05/2014 - 7:23pm
  • We need adult hats, boots, gloves and coats in 2XL and 3XL at Harbor Light Center, 1010 Currie, MInneapolis. Drive right up to the front door and drop at front desk, anytime. Thank you. - by Salvation Army North on Sat, 01/04/2014 - 12:08pm
  • What a great update - although still does not include Listening House in St. Paul (2 blocks from Dorothy Day) 651-227-5911. - by Katherine Werner on Tue, 01/07/2014 - 11:10am
  • Beginning Sunday morning Elim Church in Northeast Minneapolis will again open 24 hours a day through Wednesday at 9:30am, serving as an emergency drop in center, warming house, place of refuge from the frigid temps for those experiencing homelessness. We will offer a safe and welcoming respite from the weather complete with hot meals, free showers and clothes, 12 Step group, friendship, warm and safe bedding... and the love of Jesus. To accomplish this work, we however, would welcome your help. We put out the call again for your donation of used warm clothing (i.e., hoodies, jeans, sox, underwear, gloves, hats, coats, etc.) to meet the immediate needs. Also, if you have a sleeping bag or two you could loan us, we'd welcome that too (please be sure your item is well marked and stop by to pick it up afterwards). I will be coordinating four hour shifts of workers if you are able to assist us, and I especially need men each evening for an awake overnight from 12am to 8am. And our friends welcome your home baked goods! Elim is located at 685 13th Ave NE in NE Minneapolis. Together we make a difference in the world! - by Megan Nurnberger on Mon, 01/27/2014 - 6:01am
  • Sharing another warm shelter options which I just learned about: Hennepin County will be opening a 24-hour emergency warming station for homeless youth at the Youth Opportunity Center, effective 8:00 pm Saturday through 8:00 am Wednesday. The address is: YouthLink, 41 North 12th Street Minneapolis, MN 55403. 612.252.1200 - by Katherine Werner on Sun, 01/05/2014 - 10:42am
  • Thank you so much for posting this, Jim. Just the answers to the questions I have had, as us homeful people prepare for the coming deepfreeze. - by Carolyn Carr on Sat, 01/04/2014 - 7:12pm
  • Help out in any way that you can... it's the right thing to do! - by Retha Dooley on Sun, 01/05/2014 - 10:06am

Our primary commenting system uses Facebook logins. If you wish to comment without having a Facebook account, please create an account on this site and log in first. If you are already a registered user, just scroll up to the log in box in the right hand column and log in.

Mary Turck's picture
Mary Turck

Mary Turck (maryturck [at] gmail [dot] com) is a freelance writer, editor, teacher, and lifelong activist, and former editor of the TC Daily Planet.