DULUTH, Minn. — The City of Duluth is a city on the lake.
A popular tourist spot for many across the Midwest.
It's also home to hundreds who are homeless.
Many of them sleep in tents and flimsy structures in encampments.
"It is an unsafe situation for the people who are living in those sites. It is unsafe for neighbors. It's problematic for businesses,” Joel Kilgour says.
Kilgour is the project manager of Stepping on Up, a coalition of eight nonprofits in Duluth that all banded together to tackle this issue of homelessness.
They're currently working on a five-year plan that includes bold ideas to solve this problem, including tiny houses, college-style dorms, and more than 200 units of affordable housing to get people off the street, but...
"All of this is going to take some time,” Kilgour says.
That's why the group went to the Duluth City Council with a short-term solution.
Their idea was to control the homeless encampments and bring them closer to the nonprofits and faith-based groups that can help.
"The longer it continues the harder it is for people to really get out of that awful cycle,” Kilgour says.
The city council recently approved the idea unanimously and changed city code to allow these city-sanctioned homeless encampments within the city limits.
Kilgour says their goal is to have four city-sanctioned homeless encampments up and running next spring.
He says several cities across the country are already using this model, though he's not sure whether it would work in the Twin Cities.
"In none of the cases we have looked at is this considered an ideal long term housing strategy,” Kilgour says.
In a statement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey applauded the idea, saying it would help Duluth get to where Minneapolis is currently at with the city's Avivo Tiny Home Indoor Village, which he sees as a more long-term solution to housing the homeless in the Twin Cities.
Kilgour himself acknowledges that many of the problems they're currently dealing with in the encampments will pop up at these new ones, but he believes those problems will be easier to manage when the encampments are closer to people who are trained to deal with them.
"We won't know until we have it in place how well these are going to work,” Kilgour says.
To see the full five-year plan from Stepping on Up click here.