Duluth’s shortage of housing causes long-term and chronic homelessness. Waitlists stretch from months (in rare cases) to more than 2 years for subsidized housing. In addition, people experiencing long term homelessness and especially chronic homelessness are rarely able to transition smoothly from the streets or shelter into permanent, independent housing.
What is needed are low-cost units that are private, dignified, small scale to encourage community, culturally specific, harm reduction based and providing services including basic life skills like cleaning and cooking.
The American Rescue Plan offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make significant inroads in addressing unsheltered homelessness.
1. Criminalizing homelessness or moving people from place to place with no clear alternative is not helpful to people experiencing homelessness nor a good use of our collective resources.
2. Public health and safety must be maintained, for the well-being of sheltered and unsheltered people alike.
3. We want people to have housing that is permanent and appropriate to their need.
4. We want people to have housing and community that is appropriate to their cultural needs.
5. Ensuring BIPOC community involvement in addressing unsheltered homelessness is a priority.
6. A collaborative and systematic approach by providers and local government is our best chance at addressing chronic, unsheltered homelessness and getting people off the streets.
7. We need a clear, unified message: police will enforce the no-camping ordinance and we are authorizing safe space alternatives for the unsheltered.
Unsheltered Housing Context
● 284 people were unsheltered in St. Louis County in January 2020
● 588 people checked into the Warming Center at some point over the last winter
● There are currently 155 shelter beds in Duluth, which includes 47 domestic violence shelter beds.
● All Duluth shelters are routinely at or beyond capacity.
Address pressing concerns around neighborhood/park safety and sanitation; Allow for inreach and continuous access to services; Provide for basic shelter from the elements through the summer and fall months; Reduce harm caused by substance abuse; Decrease violence and calls for emergency services
Develop 2-4 capacity controlled (10 persons each max) scattered sites where people are allowed to set up a tent or sleep in a car.· Garbage, sharps disposal, and basic hygiene facilities provided.· Establish basic guidelines on sanitation and violence, allowing for a harm reduction approach to substance use.· Enroll medical, mental health, substance use, and housing providers to do inreach on site.· Develop non-intrusive peer- and community-led safety and clean patrols with guest input. Make sure that the public knows these sites are available.An authorized outdoor living zone does not prevent or end homelessness. It can be challenging to manage and carries many of the same risks of dispersed, unsanctioned sites. It should be viewed as a temporary, emergency harm reduction response within a broader strategy toward permanent housing. Some people cannot or will not accept even this level of engagement, which will require a mixed response of enforcement and referral to Community Intervention Group (in the case of camps that are disruptive or unsafe) and letting people be and making referrals to outreach (in the case of individuals, couples or families that are camping quietly and respectfully out of sight).
In addition to authorized living zones, there is an urgent need to add street outreach staff to engage and assist unsheltered homeless people to access services. Fund two additional positions for a minimum of 2 years. (Estimated cost $50,000 salary + $15,000 benefits per position)Community SafetySanctioned Sites: Well-being checks & control of # of tents or cars permitted per site.Non-sanctioned sites: Enforcement action with 48 hours’ notice, and contact with street outreach and mental health unit as necessary, as per current policy.Cost: 2FTE; porta-potties; garbage disposal; tents and sleeping bags, medical/resource tent.
King County checklist for homeless encampments: https://kingcounty.gov/depts/health/locations/~/media/depts/health/homeless-health/sanctioned- homeless-encampments-checklists.ashx
Phase 1. Immediate Response: 2021-2022 $300,000.00 Unsheltered Pop
Provide increased privacy and safety for residents; Allow for continued inreach and service provision; Provide shelter and protection from heat and cold; Provide people with a step up from Shelter. Create space for couples and other people who cannot or will not use traditional, congregate shelter.
Develop 100 temperature-controlled, secure, step up housing units that can be built quickly and for a fraction of the cost of permanent housing.
· Consider several models including indoor village or tiny home-park with communal hygiene facilities.
· This option offers people an alternative to outdoor camping and will allow us to phase out
authorized living zones.
· Either model should include service provision to assist people in stepping up into permanent housing and recovery
· Community will provide culturally specific and trauma-informed care.
An indoor village or tiny home park may continue as part of our Continuum of Care for many years to come considering the depth of our housing crisis, and should be constructed with that in mind. It is not intended as a permanent solution to homelessness but it can offer people the space, safety and support they need to, over time, work on their own goals and become successful in permanent housing.
Cost: Avivo Village in Minneapolis cost $8 million for a two year pilot project with 100 private rooms.
A grassroots, largely volunteer-based example from Madison: Occupy Madison – Tiny Houses & More! – Changing the world, one tiny idea at a time
Phase 2. Shelter-Next Response: 2021-2023 $8M for 100 Shelter-Next Units
Move people out of shelter and the streets into supportive housing that can either be permanent or a continued step up depending on the person’s need; add units rather than convert existing ones; keep costs low compared to traditional multifamily construction and maximize use of state Housing Support money; embed culturally specific programming and activities; opportunities for vocational development; build life skills.
Invest in development of at least 200 units of supportive housing for people who are experiencing chronic or long-term homelessness by 2026.
· This will require creative and cost effective designs and long term funding for supportive services.
· Three immediate, promising solutions include the New Model of Housing Supports, the Envision Community (Mpls), and the conversion of hotels/motels like the St Francis Apartments (formerly the Downtown Duluth Inn).
The New Model was developed through discussions with multiple Duluth providers and is ready to move forward with a pilot if funding is available. One Roof and Salvation Army will develop and manage the pilot but it is intended to be a model that could be adopted by other organizations. It consists of a 12 unit Dormitory style apartment (including kitchenettes, toilet, shower, and sink). 2 Apartments (24 units) - $3M
The Envision Community Option (Mpls) consists of a cluster of individual living units that contain space for sleeping, living, eating and a full bathroom. While small, the units are carefully designed to integrate adaptive furniture that makes their limited footprint more flexible for residents. The community is made complete with a Common House building that provides a community kitchen, a large multi-purpose space for the entire community to gather, office space for service providers to meet privately with clients, and additional public bathroom facilities. This approach would provide permanent housing options for persons wishing to form intentional community to the following groups: 20% chronically homeless, 20% residents with no homeless experience but seeking minimalist lifestyle; 60% residents with Housing instability experience.
24 Tiny Micro homes around 1 Common House – 2.5M
The St Francis Apartments project provides another cost effective example with a quick turnaround that doesn’t eat into existing housing stock.
It offers 44 apartments at a cost of 2.65M.
Cost: $3M for New Model pilot project (24 units), with support services funded by HS 2.5M for Envision Community of 24 Tiny Micro homes around 1 Common House 2.65M Hotel/Motel purchase & conversion
Phase 3. Transforming Response: 2021 -2025 $25M 200 Transforming Units