Mayor: Cold spell offers lessons

February 7, 2019
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Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said she’s hoping the community can take lessons from last week’s cold streak and turn them into solutions for the city’s homeless residents.

“We had an opportunity to learn some things over the last week or so with the weather, and we learned that we need to care for the people in our community when it gets bitter cold,” she said in announcing plans to convene a group of community leaders to discuss the issue.

She said discussions will revolve around various topics, from emergency management and improved communication to ensuring homeless residents have access to needed services.

She said it’s obvious the issue goes beyond the coldest days of the year.

“Since I’ve been mayor, I’ve had a number of calls, actually, about homeless living in our skyways,” she said. “They are staying in our skyways, so there are concerns from people in the community and the business community.”

She said she hopes to open lines of communication between the city and other agencies to make sure people know how to access help when they need it.

Among planned participants is Trent Fluegel, Olmsted County’s housing resource coordinator, who has been working with community partners in hopes of developing a long-term plan for ensuring a warming shelter is available when needed.

The Salvation Army currently operates a Warming Center at its organization’s main citadel site, 20 First Ave. NE, which opens when a seven-day forecast predicts overnight temperatures of zero or below.

Last week, the center’s coordinator, Alex Hurlebaus, said 64 different people were seen in the eight days before the coldest weather hit.

Fluegel said earlier this season he was hoping this would be a transitional year for community organizations to join efforts to seek other solutions.

Norton said she wants to build on such efforts to find ways to address concerns raised last week while concerns are fresh on people’s minds.

The meeting is tentatively set for Feb. 13, with the time and place to be determined.

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