Hennepin County looks to use CARES funding for new protective housing

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Hennepin County wants to use federal money from the CARES Act for new protective housing but not everyone is fond of the idea.

The site, located at West 56th Street and Lyndale Avenue South, would help those directly impacted by COVID-19.

"We want this to be a great thing for the neighborhood as well as for the people that move in, we want those solid neighborhood connections," said David Hewitt, the director of Hennepin County’s Office to End Homelessness.

The county board approved $2.6 million in federal funding to buy a motel. Now, the county says it’s in its due diligence phase, listening to county commissioners and neighborhood groups.

However, a Windom neighborhood resident, who asked to not be named, felt that community concerns are an afterthought.

"Neighbors frequently report having their cars ransacked, garages entered, mail deliveries stolen and property vandalism," the resident said. "This is making residents very apprehensive about accepting a homeless population. My personal viewpoint is that it would be best to let this property be revitalized by a private developer rather than a permanent homeless shelter … The county seems intent on moving forward and working with the neighbors after the fact. That makes me very nervous."

Another resident of the neighborhood, Brian Boyer, disagreed, saying he believes the shelter would strengthen the neighborhood.

"It’s silly to try to pretend that putting something in this neighborhood is a risk to our schools … There’s a misconception that anyone who may be unhoused is a risk to the neighborhood, a danger to the good folks of Southwest Minneapolis, and it’s really unfortunate," said Boyer.

Hewitt said the motel, which has about 30 rooms, will be turned into housing for people who are 60 and older and are vulnerable to COVID-19 while also having no place to live.

"We don’t want anybody to return to where they were six months ago, we don’t want to see any of the folks who are still at risk from the pandemic that is clearly still with us — and will be for some time — return to settings that would put them at risk," said Hewitt.