Damiano Center renovations almost complete at time of historic high need

By KBJR News 1

December 6, 2013 Updated Dec 6, 2013 at 11:19 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Built in 1904, the building that houses the Damiano Center is in need of some modernization.

The center's services are a community effort, led by a small staff and over 900 volunteers throughout the year.

According to Executive Director Dave Benson, without the volunteers and donations of food, clothing, and money, none of their services would be possible.

"Last year we served 125,000 meals, so that gives you some idea of the magnitude of the number of people that are coming through here," said Benson inside his office Thursday. "Usually it's about a half–million items of clothing that are redistributed through the Damiano."

Benson says the renovations will double the center's seating size, which is good for the higher numbers the center has seen in recent years.

"It also really increases the efficiency of our kitchen space, and our ability to prepare more food," said Benson.

But Benson adds that the growing numbers of those in need of the soup kitchen and clothing exchange are troublinng: "We're still seeing a lot of people here, and we still really need people's assistance."

According to Street Outreach worker Deb Holman, over the last quarter the CHUM homeless shelter and soup kitchen has seen the highest numbers of people seeking its services in history.

But Holman says there's a large hidden homeless population not utilizing the shelter.

"In the last unsheltered count, we counted about 140 in the summer," said Holman after a long shift with CHUM Friday. "We kind of estimate there's 200 or more out there, doubled up, living in cars, or living unsheltered."

Holman says the most important donations this winter come in the form of winter survival gear.

"...hand warmers, gloves, mittens, warmer sleeping bags," listed Holman. "Boots are [also] a great need."

Holman says Duluth's Loaves and Fishes shelter is also at capacity, while the Dorothy Day has exceeded capacity.

Renovations at the Damiano Center are expected to be completed by the end of December.

If you want to know how to donate to any of the mentioned shelters:

Damiano Center


Loaves and Fishes

Dorothy Day Huse

Billy Wagness