ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) - Hundreds of people right here in the Med City experience homelessness daily.
It can be difficult if you do not have a permanent place to stay, to both escape the elements and find a safe place to socially distance. As part of the COVID-19 response, the Mayo Civic Center has been a Day Center run by the Rochester Public Library for those experiencing homelessness. That is about to change starting Monday.
"As things have begun to start opening up, the Mayo Civic Center is working through their plans. We know that wasn't a permanent solution," said Audrey Betcher, director of the Rochester Public Library.
However, this week the city of Rochester announced a new space to provide these services, The Salvation Army's building on 1st Avenue.
"Of course, we'll take a look at it. If it's running beautifully, why would we stop something running well? It all depends on whether it meets the needs of the people coming here. For now, we think that it will," said Rebecca Snapp, director of community engagement at The Salvation Army.
According to city data, almost 500 people in Rochester experienced homelessness in 2018. The city and partner organizations hope to tackle this issue.
"Oh yes, big time. It's been an issue for a long time," Snapp said. "With [COVID-19] going around, we knew that it was going to be an issue."
"There are many people in our community where you would never say, 'That person is homeless,'" said Betcher.
She says a lot of homelessness is hidden.
"They try to fly under the radar. They are vulnerable and can be taken advantage of," said the library director.
With the impact of the pandemic costing many their jobs, the number of people experiencing homelessness is up.
"We're seeing a lot of those people who are in an in-between situation." Snapp said. "Either way, if they're chronically homeless or homeless for a short period of time, we want to make sure people know they have resources and a place to go."
Fortunately, a partnership between the county and organizations like Catholic Charities have helped many with housing during this difficult time.
"They have housed more than seventy people since the beginning of the pandemic," said Betcher.
Even with multiple housing services in Rochester, there are other needs in the community as well.
"The other thing we've been seeing is people needing food assistance not just from our meal program but from our food shelf standpoint," said Snapp.
With the Salvation Army now being the home of the Day Center, it will provide people with access to these meal programs and food shelves.
The organization helps not just with food and housing, but many different basic needs. Find out more here.
In total, the city has allocated $400,000 to services for those experiencing homelessness.