With less than a week before their temporary church shelter closes, dozens of people who lived at the Francis Drake Hotel are still waiting to move into longer-term housing.
About 200 people lost their homes when a Christmas Day fire destroyed the low-cost hotel in downtown Minneapolis. As of Thursday evening, 44 of them, primarily single adults, were still staying in the temporary shelter at First Covenant Church that is set to close after lunch next Wednesday. Some of them have found new housing but can't yet move in. Others are still on the hunt.
Hennepin County officials said they don't yet know how many people are still looking for housing and that it would be "premature" to predict how many will find it before the shelter closes.
Representatives of government and private organizations assisting in the relief efforts said they are committed to making sure that no one ends up on the street in the middle of winter.
"No one will be unless they choose to be," said Angela Antony, job director for the American Red Cross, which is running the First Covenant Church shelter.
At least 15 people have moved out of the church shelter in the past week. About 30 families who were staying at the Drake as part of the county's overflow homeless shelter program are now in its People Serving People shelter or hotels, according to David Hewitt, director of Hennepin County's Office to End Homelessness.
Others continue to look. For some, the search has been complicated.
"There were ways the Drake was meeting housing needs in ways that traditional hotels just can't," Antony said.
Some residents had criminal records. Some had low credit scores. Some preferred the ability to pay weekly rather than locking into a monthly lease. Some people who worked at the building also lived there. Unlike some other facilities that provide similar services, the Drake's location was close to mass-transit routes.
In the coming days, aid organizations have said they will try to count how many people staying at the church still need long-term housing and work with them to find places where they can go after the church shelter closes.
Pillsbury United Communities, a nonprofit, has given about $90,000 of the $250,000 it received from the Minneapolis Foundation directly to residents, typically in the form of cash, CEO Adair Mosley said. He said the organization plans to use the remaining $160,000 to help with housing needs, such as covering damage deposits and first months' rent.
"We know that the need outweighs our current inventory, and so we have been desperately trying to find landlords" who will work with the Drake residents, Mosley said.
He is encouraging willing landlords to reach out to one of the aid organizations involved with the Drake fire efforts or to visit the church while the shelter is open.