Ramsey County is exploring opening another temporary homeless shelter, this time in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood.

The county, along with the Interfaith Action of Greater St. Paul and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, will host two virtual community town hall meetings to discuss leasing the Provincial House for use as a shelter for homeless families.

The proposed site at 1880 Randolph Av. would serve about 20 families with minor children, most under the age of 12. The building served as offices and a residence for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet for nearly a century, but has been underutilized since 2010, according to Ramsey County.

The town hall meetings, scheduled from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Dec 21 and Jan. 5, "are the first step in a community process to evaluate this potential shelter location," according to the county.

The Sisters, part of an international community of women religious in the Roman Catholic tradition, agreed to consider turning their building into a temporary shelter because it aligns with their beliefs, the county said.

Interfaith Action would sign the lease with the Sisters and operate the Provincial House shelter with funding from Ramsey County.

Interfaith Action has provided shelter and services for homeless families for more than two decades as part of its Project Home program, which has operated out of local synagogues and churches.

COVID-19 and the ensuing economic downturn have exacerbated the homeless crisis in Ramsey County with hundreds sleeping outdoors this fall. The county has scrambled to find more emergency shelter space that is socially distanced and won't expose people to COVID-19.

Ramsey County has leased the former Bethesda Hospital building, just north of the State Capitol in the Frogtown neighborhood, with plans to turn it into a 24-hour shelter that would serve 100 homeless people. Officials plan to open that shelter the week of Dec. 21, pending approval from the Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board.

County officials are also opening a temporary homeless shelter this week in a vacant dorm at Luther Seminary in St. Paul's St. Anthony Park neighborhood. That temporary shelter will serve more than 70 women and couples, who are now housed in hotel rooms paid for by the county.