ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) — As the days continue to get shorter and shorter and winter begins to set in, the need for a way to get out of the cold is becoming increasingly critical for Rochester’s homeless population.
On Monday night, the city council voted to restrict one of the places many of people use to get out of the cold. But not without a plan to help.
As opening day for the warming center approaches, there will be no sleeping allowed in the skyways overnight.
Captain Jeff Stilwell with the Rochester Police Department’s community services division said the next three to four weeks will be spent educating folks on what they need to know to make a smooth transition.
“We didn’t come up with an ordinance to throw people out of the skyway, our goal is to put people with housing,” Stilwell said. “Making sure there’s a bed available or suitable shelter available before enforcing skyway ordinances.”
Stilwell said this new effort will give folks enough time to figure out other accommodations.
“We want you guys to have a place where you can feel safe and you can live,” he said.
“Educating people that this is coming, this won’t be a suitable place to sleep anymore. The skyways are gonna close. You’re not going to be in here all night for the next three to four weeks. We’ve redirected staff to be in here on very consistent bases,” Stilwell said.
During the conversation, Stilwell recognized another gentlemen who works with Zumbro Valley Health Center speaking with a couple sleeping in the skyway.
“There’s no crime here. They’re not being disruptive. They’re being respectful. They’re not accosting people as they go by,” he said, looking over at the couple. “But they are sleeping in a place that wasn’t designed for people to sleep in.”
The assistance from all agencies is beginning to resonate with those most in need, “There’s people that you don’t even realize that they’re rooting for you,” a gentleman sleeping in the skyway said.
A group of three men who all come from different walks of life can agree on one thing:
“If we take an individual effort and make it into a community effort, it’s gonna get better.”