Donated hand warmers, fast-food gift certificates and countless mittens, hats, blankets and socks are making their way to the homeless this week, thanks to a brand-new partnership.

As the cold front settles in this week, the newly elected Hennepin and Ramsey County sheriffs and their offices have partnered with other city and township efforts to assist needy Twin Cities residents. The agencies are taking the unused items and giving them to deputies, who in turn pass them along to people they’re taking to homeless shelters.

“At the sheriff’s office in City Hall, there were a couple shopping bags that deputies picked up on their way out to the shelters this afternoon, and there were more items when they came back a couple of hours later,” Hennepin County spokesman Jeremy Zoss said. “Overall, this has been successful.”

Deputies are taking the items and some sack meals with them when they transfer the homeless to a number of open shelters.

The partnership goes beyond food and clothing.

At midnight Monday, shelters informed Ramsey County that they were out of beds. St. Paul’s Union Depot, currently open all night, then started housing people. Around 70 people came in between 2 and 6 a.m., Ramsey County spokesman Roy Magnuson said, possibly because the trains had closed.

“The networking that goes on with the unsheltered community is significantly better than what the general public expects,” Magnuson said “Networking goes on through trains, buses, and sometimes electronic devices.”

Chicago Lake, Brooklyn Center, Franklin Avenue and 28th Avenue transit stations are open all night in Minneapolis.

It is “pretty uncommon” for Hennepin County to be teaming up with Ramsey County, Zoss said. The collaboration is an outcome of new sheriff leadership in Hennepin.

“One of the things we campaigned on is better collaborations with other agencies,” Zoss said.

In Hennepin County, the locations taking donations include the Sheriff’s Office administration, patrol headquarters, Water Patrol Headquarters and Emergency Communications Facility. Items can be dropped off at the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff’s Patrol Station in Ramsey County.

“We’re really pushing for socks because of so many cold feet,” Magnuson said. “The community has been generous.”


Isabella Murray is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.