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Bill seeks $75 million to help preserve Ramsey County’s homeless prevention efforts

Ramsey County is often held up as a model of how to address homelessness with its Heading Home Ramsey continuum of care program.

But such a model comes with greater upfront costs.

We went from the lottery system of waiting for a shelter or bed, to having rooms with doors with 24-hour security with wrap-around-services for individuals, said County Commissioner Trista MatasCastillo. She is vice chair of the program.

Their success rate in moving people to permanent housing increased from about 3% to 66% percent in an 18-month period.

Sponsored by Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul), HF1686 would appropriate $37.5 million in fiscal year 2023 and again in fiscal year 2024 to support the program.

On Thursday, the House Human Services Finance Committee approved the bill with no audible dissent. It heads to the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee next.

“This bill is a result of collaboration with over 60 public, private and nonprofit partners who align their work to ensure that homelessness in Ramsey County is rare, brief and nonrecurring,” said Hollins.

For use over a five-year span, the funding could bridge the gap from when COVID-19 funds meant to fight homelessness end until the completion of new affordable housing, she said.

Receiving the fund as a grant, the county would then contract with eligible local and tribal governments, as well as nonprofit organizations, to provide services.

Specific uses of the grant could include:

  • maintaining funding for a 100-bed family shelter;
  • developing and operating a familiar faces pilot program with intensive, 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week staffing for high-frequency unhoused clients;
  • prolonging funding to provide shelter and services for single adults, including expanded shelter for women;
  • providing outreach, support services, infrastructure, single point of entry and extreme weather support; and
  • preserving current day shelter programming.

Similar bills for other counties were also approved and sent to the children and families committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Kim Hicks (DFL-Rochester), HF2138 would appropriate $2.4 million in the upcoming biennium for Olmsted County, while HF135, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton), would appropriate a yet-to-be determined amount over fiscal years 2023, 2024 and 2025 for Hennepin County.

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