Minneapolis' expansion of homeless shelters is receiving funding increases from the city of Hennepin County | MCU Times

Minneapolis’ expansion of homeless shelters is receiving funding increases from the city of Hennepin County

Last week, Minneapolis City Council joined Hennepin County to help fund efforts to create more transitional housing for the area’s homeless.

The project, run by Simpson Housing Services and located on the corner of 1st Ave and 28th Street in the Whittier neighborhood, will increase the size of the organization’s current one-story shelter to five floors. And while the number of shelters on offer now – around 70 – will not change, the new space will dedicate the majority of the shelter’s beds to assisted living, which will include a range of services to access affordable housing, mental health and chemical addiction treatment, job placement and more.

The city and county together donated $ 7 million to the $ 35 million project. Hennepin County contributed $ 3.5 million, while Minneapolis added another $ 3.5 million – it all came from funds received by local governments under the US Federal Rescue Plan.

“These 42 extra units are critical, the 70 units of emergency shelter are really important, but here’s the thing: We need to keep our noses to the grindstone on the very important issue of housing, because housing is a right,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at a press conference called to announce the project earlier this week.

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Meanwhile, Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley, who also spoke at the news conference, said she has not finished trying to secure additional funding for the project. “Hennepin County allocated $ 3.5 million,” she said, “I would like to reach $ 30 [million] to ensure that Simpson can continue to provide this critical emergency shelter in the future. “

Mayor Jacob Frey

MinnPost Photo by Solomon Gustavo

Mayor Jacob Frey spoke at a news conference earlier this week: “We need to keep our noses to the grindstone on the very important issue of housing, for housing is a right.”

The Simpson Housing Services extension aims to pair shelter beds with 24-hour services that help the uninhabited country-stable homes. It is a model that the organization tested during its operation of the Navigation Center – the emergency hostel built by the city in 2018 to address the camp of the uninhabited on Hiawatha Avenue known as the Wall of Forgotten Natives.

“We all want to move toward a reconsidered, person-centered crisis center system that connects people to the services they need to move into housing,” said Andrea Brennan, director of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development ( CPED). “Because the solution is housing, it is not shelters. It is to ensure that we have the kind of inviting places where people feel as good as they can be and participate and receive services. ”

In 2019, shortly after the Navigation Center closed, Simpson Housing planned to lobby the state for funds to renovate the current shelter. Still, Simpson CEO Steve Horsfield said the pandemic curtailed those ambitions and curbed “any hope of getting what we thought we needed from the state legislature.” With the availability of money from the American Rescue Plan for the city and county, “we found an alternative solution.”

Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley, who also spoke at the press conference, said she has not finished trying to secure additional funding for the project.

MinnPost Photo by Solomon Gustavo

Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley, who also spoke at the press conference, said she has not finished trying to secure additional funding for the project.

The supply of funds comes at a time when the shelter is urgent: the building is in such disrepair – among other problems it has a leaky roof – that Simpson officials are not sure that it can last as a habitable shelter for another winter .

The shelter first opened nearly 40 years ago as a project of the defunct Simpson United Methodist Church, which no longer holds worship services and has evolved into a shelter-only operation.

Today, the shelter is still operating out of the building’s windowless basement – long past anyone’s intentions, Horsfield said.

When Simpson Housing began drafting specific plans for the expansion three years ago, Horsfield said, it partnered with the Minneapolis-based Project for Pride in Living, which has extensive experience managing housing and career preparedness programs.

In addition to converting 42 of the approximately 70 shelter beds into more permanent transitional housing, the new shelter will not have bunk beds or overcrowded sleeping areas. The reason the number of beds will not increase in the new facility is due to another lesson learned from running the Navigation Center, Horsfield said: the organization found that anything above about 80 beds impedes the ability to deliver a to-one services for clients.

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There will only be between six and 12 beds in a room, Horsfield said. And the spaces will be designed to offer maximum flexibility so that sub-spaces can be created in the shelter, potentially for gender-specific or non-binary groups.

The shelter first opened nearly 40 years ago as a project of the defunct Simpson United Methodist Church, which no longer holds worship services and has evolved into a shelter-only operation.

MinnPost Photo by Solomon Gustavo

The shelter first opened nearly 40 years ago as a project of the defunct Simpson United Methodist Church, which no longer holds worship services and has evolved into a shelter-only operation.

As for the Minneapolis funding commitment, Simpson Housing and the city have been working together since the city allowed the church to operate the shelter, and the latest funding is an approval of how Simpson handled the operation of the Navigation Center.

Simpson Housing planned the demolition of the current shelter in late 2022. While the construction work is being carried out, the shelter will be relocated to another location that has not yet been determined, Horsfield said. The new facility is due to open in 2024.

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