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Homeless shelters packed statewide as dangerous cold continues

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The extreme cold in Minnesota the past few days has homeless people packing shelters across the state, as well as workers seeking out people in need, officials say.

According to The Associated Press, a spokeswoman with the Salvation Army's Harbor Light Center in downtown Minneapolis says the shelter has been "crazy busy."

Annette Bauer said the shelter is over capacity with 600 people in a space that normally holds 450. To accommodate the overflow, cots and chairs are being provided for people to sleep in once the beds are full.

Despite the overflow, shelter envoys from the Harbor Light Center are out on the streets to coax any stubborn people still outside to come in to protect themselves from the cold, FOX 9 reports.

Even though Harbor Lights is one of the several shelters in the Twin Cities at or over capacity, officials are reluctant to turn people away because they fear there will be casualties because of the cold, the station says.

Salvation Army North, which oversees shelters in Minnesota and North Dakota, says shelters in St. Cloud and Mankato are also full. Still, the shelters are making every effort to keep people safe if they can't stay at the facilities.

“When we are full and someone comes for help, we resource and find them a place to stay," Major Lee Morrison of the St. Cloud Salvation Army said. “And usually we give them a bus token to get to the arranged location; but not in this dangerous cold – we would drive them to safety.”

In Duluth, more than five local nonprofit agencies have formed a street team to make sure homeless people have a place to stay, FOX 21 reports.

According to the station, the teams are connecting people with vital resources like housing, healthcare and survival gear.

People are also seeking shelter from the cold at the Salvation Army shelter in Rochester, but fewer than anticipated, KAAL reports.

Dave Ferber with the organization told the station that he's concerned people are having a hard time getting to the shelter.

"If they're used to walking or bicycling, even in the winter, days like today or this week is just not gonna let them do that," Ferber said.

According to MinnPost, a homeless assessment released in November by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for Congress studied the number of homeless people in a single night in January nationwide.

The assessment estimated that there were 8,214 homeless Minnesotans on a particular night last January, and 610,042 people nationwide.

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