Dozens of people who use a homeless shelter near U.S. Bank Stadium will be moved to a new, temporary facility during Super Bowl week because of security concerns.
In a deal struck with churches and social service agencies, up to 60 people who normally would spend the night at First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis will be relocated six blocks away to a makeshift shelter at St. Olaf Catholic Church. The transition will occur the Thursday before the 2018 game and last through Super Bowl Sunday.
A spokeswoman for the Super Bowl Host Committee said the relocation is necessary because the current shelter at First Covenant, at 810 S. 7th St., is inside the “secure perimeter,” an area surrounding U.S. Bank Stadium where people will be subject to airport-style security and intense surveillance.
Patrick Kennedy, pastor of St. Olaf, said the church already provides services for individuals and families who lack permanent housing. The church has a kitchen, bathrooms and a reception hall that can accommodate up to 250 people, he said. Each month, volunteers with the church’s Samaritan Ministry program provide free food, clothing and transportation to hundreds of people experiencing homelessness and poverty.
The cost of the transition to St. Olaf will be borne by the Super Bowl Host Committee.
“This was an opportunity to be thoughtful and humane,” said Michael Griffin, coordinator of social ministry at St. Olaf. “Instead of just closing a shelter and forgetting about it, this was seen as an opportunity to say, how can we make this work?”
The decision to establish a temporary shelter was made by clergy at First Covenant and followed months of discussion with local nonprofits, homeless outreach agencies and local law enforcement officials.
The shelter at First Covenant is operated by St. Stephen’s Human Services and is the only homeless shelter downtown that is within the secure perimeter, officials said.
Downtown church leaders and social service agencies said they continue to work closely with Super Bowl organizers to find ways to minimize disruptions for people experiencing homelessness.
They said they want to avoid the sort of large-scale relocations that have occurred in other cities ahead of large downtown sporting events.
“We want to make absolutely sure that people continue to get the services they need, and that this is not a traumatic event for homeless people,” said Gail Dorfman, executive director at St. Stephen’s.
Stephen Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services, said his initial reaction was an emotional one. But after conversations with people at First Covenant, he learned that the homeless advocates there had raised the issue themselves two years ago with the Super Bowl Host Committee.
The committee, he said, has been responsive to concerns and is working with homeless advocates to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness. There has been no attempt to “hide” the issue or sweep it under the rug, he said.
Horsfield also realized how “radically different the landscape is going to be” around First Covenant during the Super Bowl. The security measures people would have to go through to stay at the church shelter would be far worse, he said, than relocating them to St. Olaf.
St. Olaf was the preferred choice for relocating the shelter because people who use the shelter are already familiar with the church.
“St. Olaf ... is a low impact move in terms of impact on the guests,” he said. “So that is really the approach we’ve been taking.”
Staff writer Pat Pheifer contributed to this report.