County votes to help finance supervision for homeless shelter

Louise Oleson
ob Johnson, director of the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center visited with the Ramsey County Commission on Tuesday about alternative shelter options, among other topics.

Rob Johnson, director of the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center, made an appeal to the Ramsey county commission at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

He explained that so far this winter there have been five separate incidents where people who are not eligible to use the local homeless shelter needed to be somewhere safe whether overnight or for several hours waiting for a ride. In one incident a father and his child had an accident, their vehicle no longer driveable, so they had to wait for several hours for a friend to drive from Duluth to give them a ride home.

It was one of those days where the region was experiencing below zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills. The local homeless shelter is not open during the daytime, therefore, Johnson allowed the pair to stay in the LEC lobby while waiting.

Another couple of incidents involved individuals who came to town on the train but did not have the funds to travel further. They were allowed to sleep on the floor in the lobby of the LEC, but had to vacate the premises come morning when personnel arrived to work and the center opened for the day.

One incident involved an individual who ended up naked and unconscious in an LEC bathroom.

The city’s homeless shelter, Johnson continued, is supervised by all volunteers who are not trained to cope with some of these situations. Johnson explained that he had been to the City Commission with the issue and that Mayor Dick Johnson had voiced a solution that seemed to make sense.

If money were made available, the Mayor said, to pay for someone from the law enforcement community to supervise individuals like the ones they’d seen needing shelter this winter then perhaps the city’s homeless shelter could be a place where these individuals could go.

The LEC director agreed with the Mayor and brought the issue to the county for their input, as well. After some discussion, the county commissioners agreed with Mayor Johnson’s suggestion and voted unanimously to match the city’s estimated $3,000 donation to help pay law enforcement personnel to supervise the occasional “homeless” individual who might not ordinarily qualify for the shelter because of drug or alcohol use or altered mental state.

Progress at LEC

Johnson also briefly talked about services for the offender population and what was happening on the state level. This led to his report on the improvements that have been made at the LEC locally thanking Captain Jerry Schlotman, Doctor Jacqueline Downs and Nurse Patricia Longie for their invaluable help in making the needed improvements to the services provided for corrections. He also acknowledged a number of the inmates who were helping with the physical labor to improve the facility. He said that “we have a long ways to go” but that they were making steps forward and that was important.

Johnson was hopeful that the state inspectors would soon lift restrictions and allow them to accept federal prisoners soon, even if on a limited basis at first, but progress was definitely being made.

Pod Cast project

Commissioner Lucas Wakefield told the commissioners about a joint event taking place this week at the Lake Region Heritage Center with the North Dakota Chautauqua Corporation and LRHC partnering with one another. The event is at 6 p.m. and involves an oral history project where storytellers give a 10 to 12 minute talk on a given topic that will become part of a pod cast. This week’s topic will be “My first impression of the Lake Region” and takes place Thursday, Jan. 18. Wakefield said they hope to continue this project every third Thursday of the month with different topics each time they meet. The public is welcome to attend these sessions.

Forward DL

Commissioner Adam Leiphon informed the commission of another event on Thursday, Jan. 18. This one will take place at 11:30 a.m. in the meeting room beside Dunn Brothers in the City Plaza and deals with the evaluation of Forward Devils Lake and where they plan to go with it. Leiphon said he planned to attend this meeting and would report its findings to the commission, but encouraged the commissioners to attend, as well, letting Renard Bergstrom know if they planned to be there. A question was asked about how many commissioners could attend this meeting, but since it has been publicized as a public meeting, and they [the Ramsey County Commission] were not meeting to take any action as a commission, Leiphon said he thought it would not be a problem.

Plan meeting

The commission was reminded that the Ramsey County Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance would be holding a public meeting in the basement of the courthouse at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16.