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Hennepin County is poised to spend nearly $22 million on six new sites to help the homeless.

Several county committees approved the expenditures in the past week. The factors behind the purchase include the need to house homeless individuals who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and the high cost of renting hotel and motel rooms to house them.

Two of the sites will become traditional homeless shelters and the other four will be used to help homeless individuals at high risk to catch the virus. It’s unclear what the county will do with the COVID-related sites once the pandemic subsides.

So far, the county has spent $12 million on room rentals for 1,400 homeless who needed to be tested and isolated. Almost all of the $22 million is from Hennepin’s $220 million federal funding package it got specifically to aid COVID-related expenses. The proposals have the potential to create 314 new beds.

The full County Board will vote on all six sites in the next few weeks.

The sites are in Bloomington and throughout Minneapolis. The most expensive building, a former 104-room hotel at 7900 Lyndale Av. S. in Bloomington, will cost the county $13 million. Officials said the city has never had a homeless site similar to this.

The county is also buying a smaller, 35-room motel at 5637 Lyndale Av. S. in southwest Minneapolis for $2.7 million.

The two sites that will be traditional homeless shelters will be at 1251 Washington Av. N, in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood, and an undetermined place in north Minneapolis. The Washington location, known as Indoor Villages, will be 100 tiny shelters in a warehouse. Each person would have their own 64-square-foot place.

It will be operated by Avivo, a group that has a proven track record providing mental and chemical health services, street outreach and housing programs, said David Hewitt, head of the county’s Office to End Homelessness.

The other traditional shelter will be run in coordination with the Salvation Army. It will be north Minneapolis’ first shelter specifically for women, Hewitt said. In 2019, 35 woman were turned away from shelters on a daily basis.

The other sites include a place for American Indians at 121 E. Franklin Av. and a facility at 143 E. 19th St.

While the commissioners praise the staff at these efforts to tackle homelessness issues, Commissioner Jan Callison was concerned that more partners need to be at the table because the problem goes beyond Hennepin County.

Commissioner Deb Goettel also raised concerns that after eviction moratoriums end that the need for shelter space could grow dramatically.