Olmsted County and Family Promise move forward with new temporary shelter for families

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(ABC 6 News) – Tuesday, the Olmsted County Housing & Redevelopment Authority Board decided to move forward with a partnership with Family Promise Rochester for a new, temporary housing facility.

The HRA purchased the facility, a home located on 1621 10th Street SE in Rochester, in May with the goal of housing 10 families struggling with homelessness.

Tuesday, board members needed to decide who would be in charge of running operations for families living at the shelter.

While the HRA agreed to move forward with the partnership with Family Promise, commissioners were unsure of their projected budgets for the shelter.

According to Family Promise Executive Director Erin Sinnwell, the projected budget for the new facility at full capacity is estimated to cost around $746,400. This would house eight to 10 families, have two apartments and 8 FTE. Sinnwell pointed out that the funding could mostly be paid for through a state grant that Family Promise applied for this year.

Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden pointed out that the projected funding costs are “ambitious” and that commissioners are “feeling cautious about this plan”.

Olmsted Housing Director Dave Dunn pointed out that in order to solve the homelessness problem plaguing Rochester, it “will require community effort and everyone needs to play a part”.

Dunn says that the county is the property holder of the new shelter and that he wants to formalize a partnership going forward with the shelter.

Board members with the HRA say that the new shelter needs improvements in order to make it fully functional to serve ten families, however, the goal is to continue with the county being the landlord while Family Promise serves as the tenant and ensure families are being taken care of and helped with resources to get back on their feet.

Family Promise runs a similar shelter for families called the North Star. Three families stay in the home at a time as its complete with 2.5 bathrooms, two staff offices, three bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a dining room and a playroom.

Sinnwell says that the facility is too small and is lacking handicap-accessible amenities in the home.

Sinnwell says with a bigger home, Family Promise can help more struggling families.

In 2022, Family Promise served 50 families and 197 unique individuals, Sinnwell said.

The homeless situation in Rochester has only become more dire over the past few years. According to Sinnwell, the waitlist for the North Star would typically range from around eight-to-ten families at a time.

This year, however, that waitlist number has skyrocketed, with 25-30 families needing housing. Majority of these families, 86%, are in Olmsted County.

“It’s getting harder and harder for families to find affordable housing in Rochester,” Sinnwell explained. “A lot of landlords don’t want to rent to families with poor rental history or no rental history. Our hopes are to help families with whatever their obstacles are.”

Families stay in the North Star house for up to four months.

Family Promise is hoping with the HRA approval, it can continue doing what it has been doing, but for more families in a bigger shelter.

“Families that we deal with are just like everyone else in this community. It could be a divorce, it could be the loss of a job, it could be a disease or a medical procedure that would cause a family to go bankrupt and then lose their home. So, I feel like compassion and kindness goes a long way,” Sinnwell said.

Family Promise is drafting a new budget proposal to present to the HRA board.