St. Paul is preparing to open two temporary shelters for the city's homeless population to be used in the event that overflow space is needed during the winter and amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has posed an additional challenge to catering for the homeless population in the Twin Cities, as it has led to reduced services and closed certain public spaces, while those that remain open have to deal with social distancing requirements.
On Tuesday, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced that two St. Paul Parks and Recreation facilities – Harriet Island Pavilion and the Duluth and Case Recreation Center – will be made available to provide emergency overnight use for unsheltered residents.
Each space will be able to provide 50 spots, and will be called into action when the city's current shelters at Catholic Charities, Union Gospel Mission, and the Ramsey County Safe Space get to capacity.
The two facilities will be in use until Dec. 31, when the recently-closed Bethesda Hospital is expected to become operational as a non-emergency shelter.
"Ensuring safe spaces for our neighbors is a critical priority that only gets more urgent as temperatures drop,” said Mayor Melvin Carter.
"I am thankful for the deep partnership and coordination required to meet these extraordinary challenges with such an extraordinary response, and particularly for the work of Deputy Mayor Tincher, who has personally led this work from the beginning."
The shelters, when operational, will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., with those unsheltered having to be referred to the sites by Catholic Charities.
Both shelters will have "trained staff" managing the facilities, and overnight security. They have a budget of $500,000, which is being partly funded by the State of Minnesota.