See more of the story

Among the homeless, they're often the neediest of the needy. They live on the streets with physical, emotional or mental disabilities, and they are often single adults and veterans with complicated medical conditions. They are the homeless for whom it is most difficult to find shelter and care in the Twin Cities.

That's why a new public-private effort to house them with support is so welcome and needed. This week, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Hennepin County announced a $65 million development specifically for this segment of the homeless population.

The charity is purchasing Augustana Health Care Center near downtown Minneapolis and will renovate the building to provide housing and services. By 2021, the nonprofit plans to relocate residents and services there from its Exodus Residence, a smaller building it has been leasing from St. Olaf Church about a mile away.

Currently, Exodus provides apartments and respite care for 95 medically needy single adults who would otherwise be without shelter. The new facility, with a working title of Exodus 2.0, will serve more than twice that number at a time when the region's homeless population is at a record high.

County and nonprofit officials recently told the Star Tribune Editorial Board that they've identified about 3,100 households in Hennepin County for whom housing instability leads to the worst health and safety concerns. They have no or extremely low incomes, need ongoing help to survive and have little or no access to services.

"Between 2015 and 2018, unsheltered homelessness doubled in the Twin Cities region," said Tim Marx, CEO of Catholic Charities. "And the fasting-growing group is adults 55 and older with no place to be."

About 80% of the project will be publicly funded, with Hennepin County dedicating $5 million — the county's largest-ever investment in one housing project. The County Board is expected to give final approval Dec. 12. In addition to the county, the $65 million project is backed by $3.3 million from the city, $23.6 million from the state, $20 million in tax credits and $12.5 million from Catholic Charities, including $3.5 million from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.

It's a huge investment and one well worth making to provide shelter and supportive care to those who need it most. It can help save government even more in the long term by reducing the number of repeat visits to emergency rooms, temporary shelters and other social services.

With the necessary medical services on site and the capacity for longer stays, Exodus can help put the chronically homeless on a more stable path. And it can keep more of the chronically homeless off the streets, out of tent encampments and off buses and light-rail trains.

"Housing is the most basic need," Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat said. "The county has been refining our housing focus to prioritize serving those who are particularly at risk of housing instability. This project meets that need in a big way."