On Friday’s City Talk Program, Reaching Home Manager Emily Armstrong was live in the KGVO studio answering questions from Talk Back listeners for a full hour about the Johnson Street Winter Shelter that will be opening soon.

Armstrong provided the essential details of the shelter.

“It's a really important facility for us to be able to use this year, given that COVID is still around,” began Armstrong. “Due to the economic impacts that COVID has had on our community houselessness is rising, and so we're seeing greater number of folks who need places to stay. At the same time, all of our shelters, the Poverello Center is at half capacity, all of our shelters are full and on wait list, and so the need is really significant.”

Armstrong said entry into the shelter is what she described as being ‘low barrier’.

“The shelter is intended to be very ‘low barrier’,” she said. “That's how the winter shelter has been the last few years we've operated it. We try to screen people in as opposed to screening people out, so there is no qualification. If you need a safe space to come you just come, and that's it. No one's going to ask you any questions. It will be open 24/7, and it can fit up to 150 people. Last year we didn't ever quite make 150, I think our highest night was 135 or 137, so it is important for us to have that capacity on those really cold nights.”

After many complaints were filed last winter from area businesses and homeowners, Armstrong said there will be security on site and in the neighborhood.

“We are having a security presence in the neighborhood around North Avenue West and Johnson Street,” she said. “That's in response to challenges that we've had in the past; concerns we've heard from neighbors and concerns we've heard from residents of the shelter. So we're really just trying to create kind of a ‘relational trauma informed approach’ to providing a presence to limit nuisance behaviors, help with things like loitering or public health concerns, and just try to keep the whole neighborhood safer.”

Armstrong said the security team will be specially trained to work with clients at the shelter, as well as the neighborhood as a whole.

“The hope is that the security staff will be spending a lot of time in the neighborhood at local parks, around bus stops during school start and end times; those kinds of places where we've heard from the community that they really hope security can have a larger presence. In addition, they’ll be building relationships with the clients of the shelter with residents that are staying there to try to just keep everything operating safely for everyone involved.”

There will be an open house this Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Johnson Street Shelter. Neighboring businesses and residents are especially welcome to attend, in addition to the general public.


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