The future of Rochester's Silver Lake Station is once again in question.

In November 2020, the city contracted with nonprofit agency The Landing MN to operate the former fire station as a day center for people facing homelessness. That agreement ends on May 15, and there are questions whether it should continue.

Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said that operations at the day center have cost approximately $44,000 a month, with funding primarily coming from state funds earmarked for emergency operations.

There's no question that the center is filling a need.

Rochester Public Library Director Audrey Betcher, who also serves as the city’s health and human services chairwoman for emergency operations, said that since the center opened there has been a 31.9% decrease in police calls related to people facing homelessness and 144 people have been connected with housing through Olmsted County and other services.

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Rochester Mayor Kim Norton urged patience in making a decision, pointing to lobbying efforts to secure added state and federal funding.

Homelessness is a community issue that requires a holistic approach. The Landing provides one avenue in that approach. It works. We urge our community to find the financial resources to keep it working.

Vaccination consternation

Among the latest additions to the COVID-19 vaccine arsenal are retail pharmacies, including Walgreens and Hy-Vee. The pharmacy program was designed to offer a ready-built network of vaccination locations operated by staff members accustomed to giving shots.

But miscommunication over who qualifies for those shots has led to frustration and confusion, reactions that are all too common among those seeking a COVID-19 vaccine.

There are simply too many cooks in the kitchen.

A group of teachers thought they qualified for shots at Hy-Vee, but discovered when they arrived that Hy-Vee was not part of the educator vaccination program offered through county health. Doses given at Hy-Vee must follow the rules of the retail pharmacy program, which only provides shots to people 65 and older.

"(The) Minnesota Department of Health did let us know earlier this week that while educators and child care staff are eligible under overall state guidance, they are not eligible under the retail pharmacy program, which is where our Minnesota vaccine allocations (as well as some other Minnesota pharmacy allocations) are through," said Christina Gayman, Hy-Vee director of public relations.

Vaccinating the world is a monumental logistical undertaking. You would think the government would work to make it as simple as possible and not create a tangle of programs with disparate rules and guidelines. Maybe a lesson learned for the next pandemic? Thumbs down.