« While crime rates haven't risen, robberies are still an issue for local businesses | Main | Duluth poverty rates soar due to depressed economy »

From the streets to sanctuary: a Central Hillside man finds solace through a local church

DCN Reporter

With the winter season around the corner in the Northland, many have already kicked-in their furnaces to keep out the cold.But for those who don’t have a place to stay, this is a time of uncertainty and a time when the homeless rely on the mercy of others for help.

A few weeks ago, 50-year-old George Rosenwald huddled outside the First Lutheran Church on Superior Street, trying to reap some of the buildings heat from the exterior walls as he would prepare to hunker down for the night. Pastor Warren Schulz describes the scenario and said he couldn’t turn Rosenwald away.

“One of the reasons he chose us for sanctuary is he cuddled up to the building like a teddy bear,? said Schulz. “We could not cast him out to the dogs, that’s all there is to it.?

The sanctuary Rosenwald received not only provided him with the opportunity for shelter, but also a chance to meet new faces. Rosenwald began to worship with the congregation. However, small controversy ensued.

Rosenwald does have a criminal history. Most of his offenses are minor crimes including public urination and 5th degree assault although he is a convicted felon as a result of petty crimes. The church also operates a small preschool in the basement near the area of Rosenwald’s dwelling and four children were pulled from the system by their parents after hearing word of the rap sheet.

“I can understand their fears,? Schulz said.

Elected officials also acknowledged Rosenwald’s past, but cautioned towards extrapolation of his record.

“These were not crimes related to children,? said St. Louis County Commissioner Steve O’Neil.

In all reality, Rosenwald’s crimes, most of which dealt with a few minor scuffles, rank more towards the bottom of the city’s stat sheet. According to the Duluth Police Department’s crime stats, the number of recorded of assaults was 224. Compare that to the number of thefts topping the list at 3,214. Regardless of where Rosenwald fits in with the statistics, church leaders say they have only had positive things to report.

Congregation President, Karen Alworth said even those who could barely afford to help George did so, even a lady who had been in a comparable scenario to that of Rosenwald.

“She called to say ‘thank you’ for what you’re doing,? Alworth said. “I don’t have much but I’m going to drop off a check to help this man because I’ve been there.?

In conjunction with a criminal history, George also has a medical rap sheet. The congregation is attempting to subsidize shoulder and heart surgery that Rosenwald needs, according to Schulz. The reverend also said that the church would help “as much as we can? to help Rosenwald obtain the necessary treatments.

George himself could not be reached for comment due to the fact of his relocation since recent media coverage he has received. Some even argued this was unfair.

“I can tell you that I pitch my stories to the [Duluth] News Tribune regularly and I don’t get on the front page much,? O’Neil said.

However, O’Neil did say that Rosenwald is in a secure place out of the elements, as he has been provided with an efficiency apartment in West Duluth, that is subsidized entirely by private donations. The fact of the matter is that there are others like George that don’t receive the fortuitous opportunities George has had, according to O’Neil.

On any given night O’Neil estimates that around 400 people sleep homeless with 40 percent of that population under the age of 18, and it all adds up.

“We as taxpayers, we’re spending at least a couple thousand dollars a month on Mr. Rosenwald.?

Regardless of the cost, the First Lutheran Church says it’s not about the money.

“We as Christian people try to love the gospel and that is to embrace as many as we can, especially those that fall into our laps.?