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Ramsey County Board to vote on year-round emergency homeless shelter

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St. Paul will see more homeless shelter space beyond the winter months, if the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners approves a new agreement Tuesday. The agreement would expand the operation of a downtown St. Paul temporary shelter.

If approved, the two-year contract would allow the nonprofit organization Model Cities of St. Paul to operate the shelter year-round beginning Nov. 12. The former detox facility-turned-shelter would be open from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m., providing an alternative for people who sleep in skyways, on the light rail or outside in tents.

“Having a space where people can be warm and safe is helpful to provide some type of short-term relief from the anxiety that people experience when they're homeless,” said Model Cities CEO Kizzy Downie. “[It’s] a better option for the folks who need housing, as well as for the folks who are trying to help provide housing.”

The shelter, in service for the last two winters, was upgraded from 50 beds to 64 beds in 2018, and recently transitioned from mats to cots. The facility also added lockers and laundry facilities for unsheltered individuals earlier this year.

Since 1992, Model Cities has provided supportive housing to families experiencing homelessness.

“I'm really grateful for Model Cities stepping up and willing to become the provider of the shelter,” said Max Holdhusen, Ramsey County housing stability manager. “It's a brave step to expand their services, and it really fits in with their model of treating all St. Paul residents with dignity.”

Elsewhere in the city, the final phase of a $100 million Higher Ground shelter development by Catholic Charities is set to open later this fall. Replacing the Dorothy Day facility across from the Xcel Energy Center downtown, the campus will include a shelter and access to social services.

Holdhusen said the shelter’s goal is to just “get people inside,” so social workers may learn more about the individuals who are homeless in order to help them.

“The shelter becomes a place where you can start to build that relationship and it presents people a sense of safety,” Holdhusen said. “Just having a shower and a hot cup of coffee can really stabilize someone for that day.”