Rising homelessness in St. Paul is leading the city and county to create a new emergency shelter this winter, and police are already working to reach out to those who are struggling to find a warm place to stay.
Beginning in December, St Paul and Ramsey County will open the old city detox facility to open bed space for the many people who are still living on the streets. Local non-profits like Catholic Charities of St. Paul, will help make the shelter possible through the winter months.
Police and code enforcement officers say they are now responding to homeless camping complaints 2-3 times per week. Though they do encounter some, who are determined to stay outside for various reasons, they find others who are looking for a place to go.
"The people that do call in the complaints don't realize that the shelters are full," said Saint Paul Officer Dean Koehnen. "That's a constant battle and we are the people that get sent out there to deal with it."
Though the city doesn't allow camping, code enforcement and police officers are more interested in outreach, opting for warnings instead of arrests.
"We don't really want to be in the business of taking their stuff," said Steve Magner, manager for St. Paul Code Enforcement. "These individuals are citizens of Saint Paul and so we're going to treat them just like we treat anyone else."
That's why, even the warning placards, come with information about social services.
The stories the officers encounter vary each time. On Wednesday, a 36 year old man named Chris, told them he had been camping for about three months with his girlfriend. He said he gets warm meals and showers at the Union Gospel Mission, but he has not had luck finding a bed for himself or his girlfriend.
"At night it's kind of scary down here," Chris said. "I know grown men that won't walk down here."
Police say there has been a rise in crime in one of the major encampment areas, including a recent murder that has brought even more urgency to their work.
On Tuesday, they encountered a woman who was camping alone after she said she had been through a domestic abuse situation.
"When I see somethign like that, that's a big red flag for me," officer Koehnen said. "We've got to get her inside."
Officers say it's a long process, but one they'll continue.
"If I can get one person housed, out of ten, I've done my job," Koehnen said.
It's a job Chris appreciates.
"They weren't mean, rude or forceful," Chris said. "They brought help, so I mean, yeah, I appreciate it."