Shelter envoys work to coax homeless in from cold streets - KMSP-TV

Shelter envoys work to coax homeless in from cold streets

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Salvation Army Envoy Bill Miller looks to coax homeless out of the dangerous cold. Salvation Army Envoy Bill Miller looks to coax homeless out of the dangerous cold.
MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Frigid weather is a real safety concern for those who don't have a place to call home, and those who work at homeless shelters spent much of Monday searching for anyone who was still out in the cold.

Even though the Salvation Army's Harbor Light Center in Minneapolis is already over capacity and serving around 800 people inside and counting, leaders say they won't turn anyone away -- but it hasn't been easy finding people on the streets and convincing them to come inside.

Eric Lacour usually stays in a sleeping bag under the shadows cast by an overpass, but Salvation Army Envoy Bill Miller spotted him from his van.

"I decided to hop on because it was just too brutal," Lacour said. "It was between life and death out there."

The van was a lifeline for many homeless people on a dangerously cold Monday, offering a free ride to the Harbor Light Shelter in downtown as well as an opportunity to do some soul searching about why they stayed on the street.

"Stubbornness," Lacour said with a nod when explaining why he didn't want to come in before. "Stubbornness."

Miller explained that those who are drunk or high may be oblivious to pain, even the type that comes from frostbite and hypothermia. He worked to convince many homeless men who were braving unbearable temperatures, but not everyone agreed. Fox 9 News saw at least one man who said he wanted to keep panhandling.

Yet, even though shelters across the Twin Cities are overflowing and maxed out, many are refusing to turn desperate people way because they fear there could be casualties from the cold.

"A lot of people are just hoping they'll just go away," Miller lamented. "Maybe in the night time, they'll just pass away."

Along with the Salvation Army, Holly Henning, of Street Werks -- an advocacy group for homeless teens, is also trying to give rides to shelters to help young people stay safe.

"Sometimes, outreach workers carry bus tokens so we can give them enough bus tokens to ride the bus or train all night so they don't freeze," she said.

Many of the youth homeless shelters are also full or close to capacity, but YouthLink in Minneapolis one of a few places that will not turn anyone away and is open 24 hours a day until Wednesday at least.

With a few more days of severe cold weather in the forecast, Lacour hopes people will look out for one another.

"Even if they say no, encourage them," he said. "There are a lot of people out there just roaming the streets."

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