The Hennepin County Board approved $214,209 on Tuesday to shelter homeless Native American women and children at an existing facility. County officials say the money will support housing and substance abuse treatment services at the former Kateri Residence, previously owned by St. Stephen's Human Services.
Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said county staff fast-tracked the allocation in response to the growing number of people staying at a homeless camp in Minneapolis.
"This is a very humane response. It's a smart response," said McLaughlin. "And it's a part of the effort that our county has been involved in, in trying to address this very clear problem of homelessness that we have in our community."
County officials say the additional funds are part of an existing agreement with the American Indian Community Development Corporation (AICDC) and its efforts to combat homelessness and substance abuse among Native Americans. The new allocation brings the total amount of the annual agreement to more than $500,000.
"People shouldn't be living along a highway," said McLaughlin, who is running for reelection this fall, "And this is a significant effort to provide safe housing for a population that needs it. And a population that has significant medical problems."
A survey commissioned by the Red Lake Nation found that a majority of the nearly 200 people living in the camp are Native American.