Hennepin County Action on Unsheltered

Minnesota Women's Press has been following the work to serve the unsheltered this winter. Here is some good news from Hennepin County.

Partners from the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and State of Minnesota are coming together to encourage people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Hennepin County to come inside as winter weather arrives.

A broad coalition of government agencies, nonprofit and philanthropic partners are currently operating the largest and safest emergency shelter system that has ever existed in Hennepin County as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These collective efforts have thus far allowed us to avoid the devastating impacts COVID-19 has had on people experiencing homelessness in other cities.

By the end of 2020, partners, including city, county, state and philanthropy, plan to invest $55 million to open at least seven sites to provide emergency shelter, low-barrier housing and protective housing for people experiencing homelessness, as well as enhance existing shelters and expand support services and street outreach. An additional 670 units of very affordable housing designated for people experiencing homelessness will have opened or begun construction by the end of this year.

A Hennepin County news released on October 20 announced: “Partners recognize that emergency shelter may not meet everyone’s individual needs. We are committed to working directly with individuals to find the best solutions available. One person sleeping outside is too many.”

So far in 2020, 1,300 people experiencing homelessness have found permanent housing with help from city, county, state and nonprofit partners.


CARES Act funding

Hotel purchase for protective housing

The board designated $13.3 million to purchase a hotel and convert it into more than 100 units of protective housing for people experiencing homelessness who are at high risk of complications from COVID-19 due to age or underlying medical conditions. If finalized, the property will open before the end of the year with professional property management, and supportive services and security.

Previously, the board designated $3.6 million to purchase two other properties for replacement protective housing. The 160 units of protective housing will replace units Hennepin County began leasing in March as protective housing for homeless adults with underlying health problems.

Indoor Villages shelter program

The board allocated $2.2 million to the Indoor Villages project, which will consist of 100 tiny structures located inside a warehouse building. Each resident will have their own individual living space at the shelter and will receive help to connect to permanent housing. This model allows for more physical distancing and may better serve people who do not feel comfortable staying in a traditional shelter.

Learn more about Indoor Villages from our MWP Conversation with Sheila Delaney.


Low-barrier housing program

The board designated $1.1 million to support a low-barrier housing program operated by the American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC) in Minneapolis. The program will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and address the overrepresentation of Native Americans among people impacted by COVID-19.

Staff to operate protective housing at hotel sites  

The board approved $1 million to provide staffing at hotel sites for people experiencing homelessness who are at higher risk of deadly impacts from COVID-19. Catholic Charities and Primus Incorporated will provide food, ensure COVID-19 guidelines are in place and support residents’ health needs.

Emergency assistance for affordable housing property owners

The board allocated $5 million to establish a program that will allow rental property owners to apply for emergency rental assistance on behalf of tenants who cannot pay rent due to COVID-19.

The goals are to protect tenants more efficiently, reduce evictions, and stabilize rental properties so owners can plan for new costs to implement COVID-19 public health measures.  

Business recovery network

The board allocated $700,000 to establish a network that will aid businesses in COVID-19 recovery by providing peer-to-peer business roundtables, hosting a critical topics series, and matching businesses with specialized technical assistance and coaching.


Emergency shelter for women  

The board designated $800,000 over two years to operate an emergency shelter for women in Minneapolis, addressing the lack of shelter beds for individuals who identify as female during high-demand seasons.


Current Shelter Options

Hennepin County

  • Single adults: Call Adult Shelter Connect at 612-248-2350.
  • Families: Call the Hennepin County Family Shelter Team at 612-348-9410. Hennepin County practices a “shelter all” commitment for families.

New safe spaces, enhanced shelter and expanded supports expected by year’s end: Four new emergency shelter locations. Total investment of $15.2 million for 200 total beds.

  • Homeward Bound, 50 beds for Native American adults, $7.5 million total investment, planned opening December 1
  • Lerner Building, 100 separate units in an “indoor village” for people currently experiencing unsheltered homelessness, $6 million total investment, planned opening end of December
  • Salvation Army emergency shelter, 30 beds for women experiencing unsheltered homelessness, $1.3 million total investment, planned opening December 1
  • Simpson Housing emergency shelter, 20 beds for women experiencing unsheltered homelessness on a separate floor of Simpson Housing’s existing emergency shelter location, $400,000 total investment, opened in October

New protective housing sites are also being acquired to replace hotel rooms currently leased by Hennepin County for people at high risk of COVID-19 complications due to age or underlying health conditions | $20-30 million total investment

Enhancements to all existing shelters to improve safety and meet CDC COVID-19 guidelines | $5.7 million total investment

  • $3.2 million to make physical improvements to existing shelter sites such as air flow systems, partitions, etc.
  • $2.5 million to ensure all existing shelters continue to provide 24/7 accommodations

Expanded support services | $17.4 million total investment

  • $675,000 to expand homeless diversion services at Simpson Housing to help people find alternatives to shelter
  • $700,000 to add seven new street outreach workers
  • $16 million in state ESP-CV and CARES Act funding to expand shelter capacity at hotels/motels and shelters, extend shelter hours, increase staffing, support outreach workers and food provision

670 additional units of affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness.


In addition to these investments, city, county, state, nonprofit and philanthropic partners continue to work together to develop and preserve permanent affordable housing and to create policies that support a variety of housing options.

Twelve projects with 670 units of new housing designated for people experiencing homelessness will have opened or begun construction by the end of this year, including:

  • Catholic Charities Exodus 2.0 (construction beginning soon): 203 units for people experiencing chronic homelessness
  • Park 7 (open now): 61 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Mino-Bimaadiziwin (opening December 2020): 17 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Maya Commons (opened July 2020): 12 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Penn Avenue Union (opened August 2020): 4 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Lake Street Phase 1 (opening late 2020): 6 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Franklin Avenue AICDC site (opening soon): 20 beds for Native American residents experiencing homelessness with chemical dependency
  • Gateway NE (opening early 2021): 10 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Scattered site opportunities (opening soon): 200 new units for people experiencing homelessness, including 100 permanent and 100 time-limited, at various sites around the county with subsidies and support services
  • Amber Apartments (construction beginning soon) – 17 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Lydia Apartments (construction beginning soon) – 80 units for people experiencing homelessness
  • Anishinabe III (construction beginning soon) – 40 units for people experiencing homelessness

New policies to support affordable housing and shelter under review in Minneapolis

The City of Minneapolis is also working on an ordinance to allow shared housing in the city, which would create additional low-barrier, affordable housing options. Zoning requirements related to emergency shelters are also under review to make sure the city can continue to provide adequate shelter space for those who need it.


Disavowing discriminatory covenants

The board disavowed the past practice of discriminatory covenants, which were embedded in property deeds in Hennepin County and elsewhere in the United States. These covenants kept people who were not white from buying or occupying land.

Hennepin County will update the tract index of affected properties with a notice that discriminatory covenants are unenforceable, against public policy and of no legal effect. The county will also waive the recording fee for property owners who wish to disavow a discriminatory covenant in their property’s title.

Learn how to check for restrictive covenants on your property and what to do if you find one.


Ending Hennepin County leases

The board approved a plan to vacate unoccupied space and reduce expenses by ending three leases for Human Services and the Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation. The county is providing many services remotely and consolidating staff workspaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a reduced need for these spaces. Moving forward, the county is focusing on maximizing existing county-owned spaces and using appointment-based models to provide safe and efficient in-person services.


Minnesota Women’s Press has been sharing the voice and vision of women since 1985, as one of the longest running feminist platforms (print and digital) in the U.S. Our Vision: We are all parts of a greater whole. Our stronger future will be built from the collective energy of women who shift narratives to effect change. Click here if you are able to support our story sharing and free distribution.