The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to move forward with a $1.2 million lease agreement with M Health Fairview to utilize Bethesda Hospital in Saint Paul as an emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness.
The lease would be in effect from Dec. 1, 2020, through May 31, 2022. With an unprecedented number of people now unsheltered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramsey County and its partners have been working to add at least 100 shelter beds by this winter.
The Bethesda site uniquely offers a turnkey facility that will provide safe and dignified shelter for people through the next two winters. The facility will be staffed 24/7 to provide about 100 beds for unsheltered individuals referred to the site through outreach teams made up of community partners and law enforcement.
Once referred, residents can stay for multiple days in their own rooms with access to meals, bathroom and shower facilities, as well as day services. This provides a stable environment and opportunities to connect with on-site support services for mental and chemical health, housing stability, workforce and veteran assistance.
Another area of the building will be used to provide COVID-19 respite care and symptom monitoring currently provided for a small number of individuals at the former Boys Totem Town site.
Safety and security
To enhance the safety of shelter residents and the surrounding community, around-the-clock security services will be provided by Ramsey County and the HealthEast Care System through a security services agreement. Outreach staff will also work in the surrounding area, connecting people already in the neighborhood to the facility and related services. M Health Fairview maintenance staff will be retained at Bethesda to care for the building and grounds.
Commitment to housing stability
Ramsey County and its partners have invested millions of dollars since the beginning of the pandemic to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19 and address the risks and pressure the existing housing crisis has put on the East Metro.
To date, the county and its partners have added 194 new beds through lease agreements with hotels and Mary Hall; expanded the Ramsey County Safe Space for year-round use; and converted other facilities into respite sites for those who are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19. Even with these additional resources, hundreds of residents continue to sleep outside and unsheltered on any given night in Ramsey County, and county leaders will continue to urge state and regional partners to take further action to address this urgent issue as winter sets in.
Ramsey County intends to continue to engage the surrounding community and neighbors as plans for the site progress and services come online in the weeks and months ahead. To learn more about the project and future community meetings, please visit ramseycounty.us/Bethesda.
–Information provided by Bethesda Hospital