ST. CLOUD – Central Minnesota is about to experience a weekend of dangerously cold weather.

Fortunately, the number of walk-in centers providing warmth and safety for people experiencing homelessness has grown in recent years and months.

“We are typically always full,” says St. Cloud Salvation Army Program Coordinator Karla Rolfzen, referring to the organization’s 35-bed emergency housing facility located at 400 Highway 10. “So, when it's very cold, we’ll see a spike in the number of people needing just our warming shelter. People might come in for a bed when it’s really cold, but then when it gets warmer, they’ll leave.”

The Salvation Army’s walk-in warming shelter, also located at 400 Highway 10, is open and available to everyone when the temperature drops below freezing, Rolfzen says.

“People can come in the evening, typically around dinnertime to eat dinner with us, and then they can spend the night and eat breakfast,” she explains. “If it’s still cold in the morning, they’re welcome to stay – otherwise, they have the choice to leave.”

The Salvation Army is always accepting donations, including food and clothing, to provide to people who visit their facilities. Rolfzen says the organization’s warming shelter will never turn someone away amid extremely cold weather, no matter how full it becomes.

“We make the space for people, no matter what,” she says. “Our shelter is usually 64 beds, but right now, we’re running less than that because of COVID. We do have some wiggle room. We’ll put people in lounges at a safe distance between one another.”

Rolfzen says the Salvation Army has a relationship with other facilities in St. Cloud, including Place of Hope, located at 511 9th Avenue N, along with newer operations Dallas Place, located along Highway 10 in the former Michael’s Restaurant building, and Lincoln Center, located at 630 Lincoln Avenue SE.

Lincoln Center, which opened last year, is a 24-hour walk-in center operated by nonprofit Homeless Helping Homeless.

“Folks can come in have a snack, stay for a meal provided by Place of Hope , or just have a cup of coffee,” explains Harry Fleegel, founder of Homeless Helping Homeless. “When the temperature goes below 32 degrees, guests may stay the night.”

Homeless Helping Homeless was founded in 2019 by Fleegel and a coalition of people who have experienced homelessness. The organization opened Lincoln Center late last year thanks to private donations and grants. The15-person facility doesn’t offer beds, but Fleegel says people can relax on recliners, watch TV, or use Wi-Fi and/or one of three donated computers. The shelter also has two restrooms, and staff members are working to raise funds to put in handicapped-accessible showers.

Fleegel says Lincoln Center is always in need of donated essentials, including food, clothing, warm outerwear and personal hygiene items.

Visit these links to learn more about the St. Cloud Salvation Army, Homeless Helping Homeless and Place of Hope.

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