Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said Tuesday that the housing crisis has never been more clear, prompting an urgent need to use millions from state, county and city partners for three new shelters in Minneapolis.
"To be clear, COVID-19 has exacerbated and exposed this crisis — it did not create it," she said during a news conference, flanked by housing advocates in T-shirts stating "Native Americans were never homeless before 1492."
The three shelters will provide at least 110 beds total, with one site offering 167 affordable housing units.
The project will be paid for with $49 million in state and city bonding and a total of $23.4 million in funding from the state, city and Hennepin County.
Flanagan said the state also is requesting an additional $19 million in federal CARES Act funding to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on people who are homeless and victims of domestic violence.
"We do, in fact, have a homeless crisis in our city and it has been compounded by so many different issues, from an economic downturn to a global pandemic to an opioid crisis," said Mayor Jacob Frey.
The American Indian Community Development Corp. (AICDC) recently purchased a 13,000-square-foot warehouse at 2012 Cedar Av., currently home of Cedar Box Company, for $2.7 million, said CEO Mike Goze.
The building will be renovated into a 24/7 emergency 50-bed shelter by December.
"This is about saving lives," Goze said.
The shelter site is across the street from the Red Lake Band's $35.8 million affordable housing complex, which is under construction and expected to wrap up by December or January, he said.
The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency is making its largest investment ever — $23.4 million — to build a low-income housing complex and shelter at 1007 E. 14th St., in downtown Minneapolis' Elliot Park neighborhood, in collaboration with Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It includes permanent single apartments for 167 people, 30 beds for homeless people in need of recuperative care, and six transitional apartments for veterans.
At the Gordon Center in north Minneapolis' Willard-Hay neighborhood, a 50-bed shelter for women experiencing homelessness will be developed with $4.4 million from the city and $800,000 from the county.
Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley said Black women account for a disproportionate number of homeless people. As of last Friday, she said, 46 of Hennepin County's 86 chronically homeless women were Black.
"Unsheltered homelessness is hitting our Native relatives and Black people the hardest right now. This is a public health nightmare," she said.
Native Americans accounted for nearly half the people staying at a homeless encampment in Powderhorn Park that was recently cleared out by Minneapolis park officials. Twenty people were arrested as the camp was shut down.
"No one should be arrested for being homeless. Homelessness is not a crime," Conley said.
"This is why it's important that we get these three shelters up and running as soon as we can. … Housing is the solution."