ST. CLOUD -- What to do about St. Cloud's growing homeless population? The city council had a lengthy discussion on that topic during their work-study session Monday night.

Community Development Director Matt Glaesman says the homeless population in central Minnesota has grown from an estimated 477 people in 2009 to about 944 in 2018 - the last year a homeless count was taken. The count is updated every three years and a new update is expected later this year.

He says the city's homeless shelters are at or near capacity. But, he says homelessness is not just a St. Cloud problem it is also a challenge facing the entire state and the country.

Council Member Paul Brandmire had several questions including "why are so many people homeless?" and "where are they originally from?"

If we build another shelter will more come?  And, last but not least, what are we doing to address the cause of the homelessness and alleviating those causes to try and get the people to become not homeless and become productive members of our community.

Last month the city approved two new overnight shelters in southeast St. Cloud - the Lincoln Center and Dallas Place -- along with a new permanent assisted living facility. Glaesman says those places are having successes.

I am hearing positive stories that folks are making the transition from places like Lincoln Center and Dallas Place, those homeless day centers, into permanent housing and getting employment.

In 2004 the city commissioned a task force to examine the city's role in solving homelessness. A number of community groups continue to meet on a weekly basis. It is expected that the city will reconvene the task force later this year to update the city's goals. Several council members asked what the surrounding cities are doing to address homelessness and suggested the issue needs to be thought of more as a regional one.

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