A Rochester day center for people facing homelessness will continue, even as Olmsted County prepares to end the season for a nightly operation.
“We don’t know where these individuals will be going,” said Rochester Mayor City Norton.
The county moved its warming center, operated by Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota, to Mayo Civic Center, shortly after the city opened a day center in the facility.
Olmsted County’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority decided earlier this month that the warming center operations will end on May 31, two months after it was initially scheduled to close for the season.
On Monday, the Rochester City Council unanimously approved keeping the 8 a.m.-to-8 p.m. day center open on a monthly basis, with plans to continue operations through at least June.
The space has allowed people facing homelessness to maintain safe physical distances from others amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with funding for most related expenses coming from the state for April and expected to continue this month.
While some homeless residents may end up camping in parks and other sites throughout the city without the warming center, Norton said she’s worried others will gather in places that don’t allow safe distances once the nightly center closes.
Olmsted County Housing Director Dave Dunn told the council his staff is working on potential solutions moving forward, adding that 18 families and individuals have been permanently housed since the pandemic began.
Still, 37 to 42 people are staying at Mayo Civic Center each night, and another 23 are housed by the county in local hotels.
“Realistically, we’re not going to get to all of those,” Dunn said of people without permanent housing.
He said the goal is to move as many as possible into long-term housing options.
Part of that effort is expected to incorporate the city’s daytime operations at Mayo Civic Center, which has provided county staff with an opportunity to meet with people struggling to find housing.
“We’re there for case-management issues as they arise,” he said.
While the council was unanimous in supporting the day operations, members said it was not ideal.
With a new ban on sleeping in the city’s skyways and the closure of the Rochester Public Library, council members indicated that options are limited.
“Because so many public places are off-limits, we wanted to provide this,” said council member Patrick Keane.