Proposal would lift restrictions on homeless shelters

A proposal to loosen regulations on homeless shelters in Minneapolis passed the City Council’s Zoning & Planning Committee on Thursday.

The measure, authored by City Council Members Lisa Bender (Ward 10) and Cam Gordon (Ward 2), removes zoning restrictions that require overnight shelters to be either located in religious institutions or in the downtown area.

The goal is to create more opportunities for shelters throughout the city and reduce concentration of shelters. It also addresses concerns raised by LGBT people experiencing homelessness who have felt uncomfortable in some shelters affiliated with religious institutions, Bender said.

“Everyone’s goal is to house people,” Bender said. “But the reality is that people now need shelter. … This is one small change that we can make. We’re not going to solve homelessness through the zoning code text amendment, but we are addressing something the city directly controls and something we can do today.”

The median number of homeless people in Hennepin County each night over the last year was 2,156, according to the Office of Ending Homelessness. Of that group, 296 were families (1,196 people), 902 single adults and 59 were youth.

The proposed zoning code amendment is also intended to encourage more emergency shelters that allow longer-term stays, up to 30 days, according to a city staff report.

The county has 16 homeless shelter and 14 are located in Minneapolis.

The full Council will vote on the measure Friday, Dec. 11.