The city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County will use federal coronavirus aid to help open three new homeless shelters and fund other measures for emergency housing, as many people continue to sleep overnight in local parks.
The shelters would be exclusive to three groups — women, Native Americans and the medically frail — and opened in partnership with the state and social service organizations. A City Council committee is scheduled to advance more than $8 million in CARES Act funding for the shelters Thursday.
Andrea Brennan, interim director of the city's community planning and economic development department, detailed the plans Wednesday during a briefing by department leaders.
"All three projects are a response to the significant increase in homelessness that has occurred locally since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic turbulence," Brennan said. "We strongly believe that encampments, especially large encampments, pose serious safety risks."
Homeless individuals and families have camped across the city in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and later at parks after the killing of George Floyd. Earlier this month, 45% of people living at Powderhorn Park identified as Native American.
Officials have repeatedly expressed that those settlements can become dangerous and unsustainable. On Monday, one of two large encampments in Powderhorn was cleared by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which has urged other branches of government to find permanent housing for those who have taken refuge in parks.
Last week, a Hennepin County Board committee advanced $3.5 million in CARES funding for the American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC) to turn three buildings near the intersection of Cedar and Franklin avenues in south Minneapolis into a shelter. That shelter would have at least 50 beds for Native Americans and could open as early as this fall, according to documents.
The county will also purchase a vacant school at 2220 N. 16th Av. from Minneapolis Public Schools in north Minneapolis to create a year-round shelter for homeless women. The shelter could have up to 50 beds and open by February.
The city is also partnering with Catholic Charities to renovate a former nursing home at 1007 E. 14th St. into a 203-unit housing complex for the elderly, medically frail and veterans. There would be 167 permanent units for adults experiencing homelessness, 30 medical beds for homeless people who were discharged from hospitals and 6 transitional units for veterans, according to Catholic Charities. The project could be open by fall of 2021.
"These shelters all respond to what has been identified as gaps in our homeless response system," Brennan said.
Earlier this month, the city and county also began accepting proposals for more immediate solutions to provide housing and outreach for homeless people. They will draw on up to $9 million in CARES funding. The deadline for these proposals is Friday; the city and county will evaluate them Aug. 3.
"We wanted to have a really short turnaround for the [request for proposals] because if something is ready to go, we want to get it going," Brennan said.
There are still open shelter beds across the county, said David Hewitt, the director of the county's Office to End Homelessness. Those include 50 private rooms for families with children, and 40 to 50 beds for single adults each night, he said.
Families with children who are homeless can find shelter rooms by calling Hennepin County at 612-348-9410.
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753