Nightly shelter at Mayo Civic Center for people facing homelessness has been extended for a month.
Olmsted County’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority unanimously approved the one-month extension to June 30 to provide staff time to secure 45 units of housing.
“To get all this done in less than two weeks is likely not possible,” County Housing Director Dave Dunn said of the need to add a month to the county's rental of space in the civic center.
The board also approved continuing its work with Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota at an estimated cost of $350,000 through the end of the year.
The expense is part of an anticipated overall $900,000 expense to secure a mix of housing and temporary shelter, as well as related support services, for people facing homelessness throughout the rest of the year.
The plan calls for spending $137,500 to secure 30 units of housing units for the next seven months, as well as an estimated $210,000 to continue using hotel rooms to temporarily house at-risk people.
The plan also will move nightly warming center operations back to the county-owned building at 200 Fourth St. SE. The maximum occupancy will be reduced from 30 to 15 to allow for safe physical distances between people staying in the facility.
The move to reopen the Fourth Street center didn’t receive full board support, with county commissioners Matt Flynn and Mark Thein voting against it and citing concerns that it would become a year-round facility.
Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden said the added shelter is needed, since other short-term housing options are not available with the closing of Dorothy Day Hospitality House and the Women’s Shelter, as well as reduced operations of other programs.
Dunn said the lack of access to temporary shelter could result in added hotel costs for the county as it addresses emergency housing needs.
“If we don’t have a shelter facility, we are more likely to look at hotels,” he said, noting it still wouldn’t provide housing for everyone facing homelessness.
The plan approved Tuesday could provide housing for up to 80 individuals and families a night, if needed. Dunn said recent weeks have seen approximately 65 sheltered at the civic center or in hotels on an average night.
But the goal, he said, ultimately is to reduce reliance on county services.
“Our goal is to transition people from emergency shelter to secure housing,” he said.
Deputy County Administrator Paul Fleissner said the plan appears to be supported by the state, which could cover much of the cost.
He and Dunn told commissioners a conversation with Cathy ten Broeke, the state’s director to prevent and end homelessness, earlier in the day pointed to potential funding options, but no guarantees.
The best-case scenario would have the state providing $800,000 of the cost with the county committing $100,000, which was already set aside to secure 15 housing units as part of the county's COVID-19 response.
Dunn said county staff plans to work with the state to seek options for funding outside the local levy.
If added funding at the state or federal level isn’t available, the county will still have access to $281,000 in state shelter funding to cover related costs through July.
That would leave HRA levy funds to cover $619,000 for the program. The funds could come from nearly $4 million in reserves set aside to develop affordable housing.
Commissioners said the spending from county coffers will be closely watched.
“This is not a bottomless hole here,” Commissioner Jim Bier said.