Each spring Terry, a 20-year veteran of the department, meets with everyone in the shelter before the shelter closes for the season — a rite of spring that sends many of the men who had been living there back to living under bridges or in abandoned structures. Terry says he tries to let the men know about the full scope of services available, such as emergency housing and meal vouchers, the emergency funds available at the Minnesota Valley Action Council, the county's services, and services geared toward youth.
Some take his advice. But many do not.
Instead they'll end up living in places such as the remaining structure on the North Star Concrete site, which has had boards ripped off the windows so people could take refuge inside. Or under the bridges that cross the river's bike trail, where a former cubby hole of a site was still visible after its inhabitant (whose presence had frightened passing joggers) was asked to leave. Or the downtown mall.
Terry says his attitude toward the homeless is much different today than when he started. Twenty years ago, he'd be likely to be a little more impatient with them. Today, he says he's more understanding of their plight.
"I'd never even talked to the people who were living on the street," he says of his early days. "Now I'll go have lunch with them two days a week. Having a meal with them shows them a different side. It's an opportunity to have contact with police where its non-confrontational, where I can laugh with them, joke with them. I'm more effective in how I work with them because I know them."