Twenty-seven people are moving into new housing Wednesday after nights of sleeping in the Mayo Civic Center and other locations.
“We’re starting to transition people into permanent housing solutions,” Olmsted County Housing Director Dave Dunn said Tuesday as final touches were put on a 18-unit facility at 105 N. Broadway Ave.
The county is renting a former assisted living facility for $10,000 a month, based on a 10-year lease with the potential for purchase. Three of the rooms in the facility are being dedicated to providing shelter for people facing homelessness who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are awaiting test results or recuperating.
Another 12 single rooms are opening at 2206 11th Ave. SE, where the county is renting space for $11,300 a month through the end of the year.
Dunn said the initial funding for the housing is coming from the county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority, but state or federal reimbursement, including funds through the CARES Act, will likely be available to cover costs, since the move is largely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s really hard to isolate yourself if you don’t have a place to call home,” he said of the need for the housing options.
With more than 50 applications for the rooms, Mary O’Neil, the county’s housing stability team program manager, said the decision on who landed a room was based on length and periods of homelessness, as well as disability status.
Dunn said priority was also given to people who have indicated willingness to work with county staff and others in efforts to achieve independence and stable housing.
“We’re really wanting to help people who are ready for help,” he said.
Dunn said the Broadway location could provide housing for longer periods, but the 11th Avenue facility will only be available for six months, meaning the goal is to find other options before the end of the year.
As the transition continues, Dunn said meals will initially be provided through the Meals on Wheels program and no payment is required to allow people a chance to get settled. The space does come with rules, including no smoking and no guests in the rooms.
Cathy Hunsaker, the Rochester Community Warming Center site manager for Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota, said the people who have been staying nightly in the Mayo Civic Center are looking forward to the move.
Warming center staff will be operating the new sites, which Dunn and Hunsaker said makes the transition more smooth.
“They are moving to an unfamiliar place with familiar faces,” Hunsaker said, adding that the new accommodations will provide a better environment to help people connect with counseling and other needed services.
With the transition, the county is closing its nightly operation at Mayo Civic Center, but Rochester city staff will continue to operate a day center for people who continue to struggle with homelessness.
The county also will reopen the warming center at 200 Fourth St. SE with the help of Catholic Charities staff.
Shanna Harris, executive director of Catholic Charities of Southern Minnesota, said it's all part of the organization’s need to be flexible during the pandemic.
“It is just another transition for us,” she said.