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Local MN Governments Ramp Up Coronavirus Response Efforts

Local governments are trying to find ways to help Minnesotans who are homeless protect themselves from coronavirus exposure, and also taking steps such as suspending water shutoffs for renters and homeowners. (Adobe Stock)
Local governments are trying to find ways to help Minnesotans who are homeless protect themselves from coronavirus exposure, and also taking steps such as suspending water shutoffs for renters and homeowners. (Adobe Stock)
March 18, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Advocates for homeless Minnesotans say it isn't easy for people living on the streets or in shelters to protect themselves from the new coronavirus -- and local governments are responding to those concerns.

This week, two of the state's most populous counties -- Hennepin and Ramsey -- approved emergency funding to help homeless individuals during the pandemic. Max Holdhusen, Ramsey County housing stability manager, said $1.8 million has been set aside for St. Paul-area facilities that can be used as social-distancing areas.

"We have to think about how do we isolate and quarantine this population that's already hard to serve and already facing a lot of barriers -- and is also living in a group setting, which is not recommended at this time," he said.

Hennepin County officials approved up to $3 million to find space for people who need areas to isolate or quarantine themselves. Meanwhile, Minnesota's largest food bank, Second Harvest Heartland, is putting together an extra 10,000 supply boxes for low-income households.

As residents rush to stores to stock up on supplies, Second Harvest chief executive Allison O'Toole said, the state needs to be mindful of those who don't have the means to do so.

"It is so important that we make sure our food-insecure neighbors have that same opportunity," she said, "so these food boxes are designed to help with that."

Since this emergency effort isn't included in the organization's annual budget, O'Toole said, donations are encouraged to help cover the added expenses.

More information on Second Harvest is online at 2harvest.org.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN