Homelessness is apparent in Duluth
By JULIA DAVIS, LISA KUNKEL, and JIM SALMELA
For most people in Duluth, just walking to their cold car and waiting for it to warm up is a dreaded time. Now imagine sleeping outside in the chilly fall and in the freezing winter. Imagine having no place to call home. Imagine carrying everything you own on your back, begging for change so that maybe you can eat a meal of your choice, rather than what the a shelter or soup kitchen chooses for you.
There are varying degrees of poverty. Not everyone who is considered homeless is sleeping on the streets.
Poverty and homelessness can range from an elderly couple who eat at a soup kitchen to save money, to a family that struggles to have a place of their own, to the severity of homelessness that was painted above.
One of the factors that makes homelessness in Duluth so hard to deal with, according to Al Bergren (view video), superintendent of the Union Gospel Mission, is that many of the city’s homeless are also dealing with alcoholism.
To combat poverty, Duluth does offer some low-income housing, such as the recently opened San Marcos apartments, but these resources are sometimes abused.
“I heard of one guy who was renting a small room. It was a 12x12 room, and he had 18 people sleeping in there with him," said Bernard Holland, a bartender at the Kozy Bar. “The cops busted it because someone got stabbed."
Holland, as a bartender at the Kozy Bar, sees people that are considered impoverished or homeless in Duluth almost daily. Above the bar are rooms that are rented out, usually to people with low incomes.
“A lot of my friends are homeless, I used to let them stay with me, but they abused the privilege," said Holland.
When someone gets evicted and moves in with a friend, they are considered homeless, according to Holland. He feels that everybody should be doing a little bit more to help the situation.
“At this time last year you could walk down to the Lakewalk [from the Kozy Bar] and see 30 or 40 people sleeping in the bushes," said Holland.
There are a number of different resources available in the city that work to raise awareness and counter the ongoing issue of homelessness. The Union Gospel Mission, located on Second Avenue East and First Street, has been serving the city since 1922.
The Union Gospel Mission is just one place where people can find a hot meal and, in an emergency, a place to sleep for the night. With employees and volunteers working seven days a week, the Union Gospel Mission is always willing to help those in need. Many of the employees and volunteers at the mission have their own personal experiences with homelessness. Chuck Rogers (view video) was homeless for over eight years before the Union Gospel Mission hired him as a regular employee.
“It feels good to help people," said Union Gospel Mission volunteer Adam Obermann. “People come in here and they get all their needs."
The mission also plans an annual event called “Boxtown" to raise awareness and money for the cause of homelessness in Duluth. This fall marked the third year of Boxtown, an event during which people from the mission are joined by citizens of Duluth to sleep outside in shelters made of boxes for a minimum donation of $25 per person.
“This (Boxtown) definitely helps to further the benefit of helping people and basically get the word of us out there," said Union Gospel Mission employee Cory Bergren.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness stated that we need to create more jobs, but Ness feels that Duluth needs to create more jobs in industries where help is needed, in addition to making housing more affordable.
“Aviation, education, and health care are the core industries in Duluth," said Ness at the candidate forum in October. “If we can create training programs that meet the specific skill and talent needs of those industries, then we’re going to start getting spin-off businesses and opportunities for entrepreneurs to create real value in those industries."