David Hewitt, director of Hennepin County's Office of Homelessness, will be part of a Rochester community forum discussing Minneapolis' tent-city encampment. 

The event, sponsored by the social services and justice team of In the City for Good, aims to raise awareness of the impact of poverty and homelessness. 

"The more we understand about the problem and perspective of those issues, and the more we learn about it, the better we are able to respond," said Nancy Zaworski, a member of the team holding the forum. 

The forum is scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Rochester Area Foundation, 12 Elton Hills Drive NW. 

Zaworski said she hopes the planned discussion with Hewitt can help prepare local agencies and other advocates to respond to needs that could arise locally. 

Last year, homeless residents in Minneapolis formed a camp along Hiawatha Avenue. Later, the city opted to move the occupants to a navigation center, designed to address public health and safety concerns. 

Rochester has seen its own growing concerns related to homelessness. Last winter, 151 different people used the warming center established by the Salvation Army, with a nightly count ranging from eight to 47, according to Trent Fluegel, Olmsted County’s housing resource coordinator. Monthly averages were under 30 throughout the winter. 

Since taking office in January, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton has advocated for finding a solution to address homelessness in Rochester, holding three community discussions on the issue. 

Most recently, the city and Olmsted County, along with local businesses, have joined forces to create a warming center, which is expected to open nightly in November and operate through March. 

Zaworski said such collaboration will be important, and local residents can learn from Minneapolis' experiences. 

"I think David will have great things to share," she said. 

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