Homeless for the Holidays: Rochester Community Warming Center needs volunteers

The Rochester Community Warming Center announced they will open Sunday, December 15. It will operate daily from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Posted: Dec 8, 2019 11:50 PM
Updated: Dec 9, 2019 12:31 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Most of us take for granted the warm bed we go home to every night. When you're homeless, you have to get creative to find a place to sleep and stay warm.

There's a new spot for them to go thanks to a collaboration between the city of Rochester, Olmsted County, and Catholic Charities.

The Rochester Community Warming Center is located at 200 Fourth Street SE, across the street from the Olmsted County Government Center.

Coordinators announced the center will open on Sunday, December 15. In order for it to be successful, the need your help.

"We have very open doors," Cathy Hunsaker, a night shift manager at the warming center, said. "We want to help as many individuals as we can."

In a city filled with thousands of people, about a dozen came together to learn how to help the community's most vulnerable of residents.

"Being part of a community is more than just being in it and living there," Matthew Murphy, of Rochester, said. "So to actually give back and to help each other."

Matthew Murphy makes one volunteer. The goal is to get 200 people signed up.

"I know it's going to be busy, but people need a warm place to go," Murphy said, "and I'm fortunate enough to have a warm place so I gotta be grateful."

The Rochester Salvation Army provides shelter when the temps dip below zero. The Rochester Community Warming Center will be open no matter the weather.

"It will be a good opportunity for them to have a place where they can go when it's not just zero," Hunsaker said, "because one or two degrees doesn't feel so great either."

As a night manager, Hunsaker will work side by side with the volunteers to care for the guests.

"I just want to help and I feel like this is a population that is under-served," Hunsaker said, "and can tend to be marginalized and really benefits from having someone in their corner who just will talk to them like a person. I want to bring that to this position."

The space will provide people a place to sleep, clean themselves up, and wash their clothes.

In all, there's 30 bed and there's room to fit up to 32 people. Coordinators are working on a back-up location if more people show up.

"At first it seemed like there maybe wasn't much of a homelessness issue in Rochester," Hunsaker said, "and then you start to pay attention."

With people sleeping in sky ways, living in their vehicles, and camping out under bridges, it's a resource that's needed in the community and expected to be utilized.

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton sees the value in adding another appropriate place of shelter.

"Homelessness affects those that are without a home, but it affects other people in the community as well," Norton said. "It's going to take the whole community to solve the problem."

Hunsaker said the new center will not only provide individuals a place to sleep, the staff will also help them better their situation.

"We definitely want to be helpful and proactive in that and get people connected with the resources they need to solve their root issues of their homelessness," Hunsaker said, "because having a place to sleep is just the tip of the iceberg."

The Rochester Community Warming Center will serve adults ages 18 and older. It will operate daily from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

There will be two shift volunteers can sign up for: 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

If you would like to volunteer, contact Rochester Community Warming Center Coordinator Tricia Kramer by email: tkramer@ccsomn.org or phone: (507) 287-2047, ext. 33.

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