County buys 2 local properties for vulnerable residents

Metro Inn
Metro Inn

Hennepin County has purchased two Southwest Minneapolis properties to be used as temporary housing for vulnerable unsheltered people during the pandemic.

The county board approved $3.6 million to purchase the properties on Sept. 29 using CARES Act funding. The buildings, the 35-room Metro Inn Motel at 57th & Lyndale and the 23-unit dormitory owned by the Volunteers of America at 19th & 2nd in Stevens Square, will replace about 60 leased units from hotels and give the county its own supportive housing space in the future.

There will be some updates and repairs to the buildings before people can move in, according to Kyle Mianulli, a county spokesperson. But the structures were targeted because they will be move-in ready in the near future.

“We are working to expand shelter capacity as much as possible heading into winter,” he said. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,

Hennepin County has begun operating shelter space directly for the first time by leasing large blocks of hotels for people in the shelters that are considered more vulnerable to the disease. Currently about 540 people are staying in hotels leased by the county, and more than 300 county employees from all departments have worked shifts at the hotels.

The newly acquired buildings, along with an old hotel in Bloomington, are intended to serve as what the county calls “protective housing.” The hotel spaces house people for longer periods than most shelters and each person
has their own room. Owning the buildings outright gives the county more flexibility in the future and a valuable asset, Mianulli said. Since March, more than 50 people have been transitioned from hotels to permanent housing. The county will staff the facilities through contracted agencies to provide services and property management.

The county is required to use its $220 million CARES Act dollars by the end of the year and has been paying to lease hotel space using that funding. By buying some of its own spaces now, it can ensure more people can stay in those locations after the new year as other funding sources are explored to ensure those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 have a place to stay throughout the pandemic.

“The need to house vulnerable people doesn’t end with the end of funding; it ends with the end of the pandemic,” Mianulli said.