The number of households on a list of homeless people awaiting housing in Duluth has risen by nearly 26% since last November.
As of last week, 1,125 households were on the “coordinated entry homeless housing priority list,” said Deb Holman, street outreach worker for CHUM.
A “household” can consist of a single person, a couple or one or more adults with children.
Last Nov. 1, the list contained 894 households; three years earlier, there were 815.
“It was steady on 800 on the waiting list, and it jumped,” said Jill Keppers, executive director of the Duluth Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
Those on the list aren’t necessarily out on the streets. They may be staying with family or friends.
“But there’s a good majority of people outside right now,” Holman said.
Holman said that includes about 70 people living within city limits in tents.
Whether they shelter in Chester Park or Lester Park or behind the old jail, the tent dwellers eventually are told to move on, she said.
“So where do people move to?” Holman asked. “So usually the same thing happens. So now they’ve got to move again and again and again.”
A breakdown of the composition of the list wasn’t immediately available, but it’s not just singles, Keppers said.
“I can tell you we’ve always seen a lot of singles with high barriers on the wait list,” she said. “But we’re seeing more and more families and multi-person households.”
The list isn’t strictly a wait list, Holman said. It’s designed to look at people’s vulnerabilities, with those considered long-term chronic homeless getting the highest places on the list. Those considered less vulnerable aren’t likely to reach the top of the list.
The increase in the homeless population is particularly worrisome as winter approaches, Keppers said. She wondered out loud if there will be a warming center again on cold nights, and if the hours will be extended.
Last winter, the City Center West Warming Center — in a West Duluth community center — operated on 29 subzero nights beginning Jan. 17. A total of 681 people signed in to the center.
CHUM has plans to operate a 24/7 drop-in center at its downtown location.