The Rochester Community Warming Center’s operations in the Mayo Civic Center are expected to end this month.
The Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority voted 6-1 to end its commitment to providing the space on May 31.
“We always intended to end this on April 30,” said Olmsted County Commissioner Jim Bier, who serves on the HRA board with fellow commissioners.
He said the county faces significant costs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the budget is tight.
While resident board member Angela Davey cast the only vote against the move, Olmsted County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden opted not to vote.
“This is what I expected the board to do, and I know the cost is really high,” she said, saying she’d prefer to wait until a plan is available to address homeless needs going into June.
The county worked with Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota to move the warming center to the Civic Center in March, shortly after the city opened space in the Mayo Civic Center to provide a day center for people facing homelessness.
The combined operation has cost $60,000 in monthly rent, which was covered through a $148,000 state grant for April.
County Housing Director Dave Dunn said a similar grant, which also covered hotel stays for high-risk clients and special staffing, could be available for May expenses.
County Board Chairman Matt Flynn indicated Tuesday’s decision could be reversed if additional state support becomes available.
Cathy Hunsaker, the warming center's interim coordinator, said Catholic Charities has funding committed through May 31, but is taking the lead from local officials.
"We are committed to serving our guests until the key decision makers decide it is time for us to close our doors for the season," she said.
The end of the nightly warming center isn’t expected to directly impact daily operations at the Mayo Civic Center.
“We continue to have conversations about how to provide services to individuals experiencing homelessness while public facilities remain closed or open to limited operations," Rochester Deputy Administrator Aaron Parrish said. "As with many decisions regarding the city’s COVID-19 response, it is difficult to know what factors may change in the coming weeks. We hope that we can continue to partner to meet the needs of people that are particularly impacted during this time.”
The day center has helped provide meals to 50 to 60 meals daily, and Dunn said it has offered the county’s housing stability team and other homeless advocates an opportunity to connect directly with people struggling to find housing.
Dunn said an update on the situation and a report on potential summer plans will be given to the HRA board during its next meeting on May 19.
The center at 400 Fourth St. SE is still slated to reopen in November.