Several Bloomington hotels already being used for the purpose

Hennepin County is aiming to purchase a 104-room hotel in Bloomington to house people experiencing homelessness.

Under the plan, the county would purchase the Extended Stay America, located at Lyndale Avenue and American Boulevard, for $13 million. The purchase would allow the county to move homeless populations that currently reside at two Holiday Inns in the city.

Since March, the county has been leasing hotel rooms to shelter homeless individuals in an effort to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks by spreading out the population. The county intends to move people from the Holiday Inns to the newly acquired hotel by June 2021.

That timeline is a departure from earlier plans, which called for the county to use the hotels to house homeless populations through the end of 2020. “We are still trying to help them make sure that that end of the year commitment can be reached,” City Manager Jamie Verbrugge said.

According to a report presented to the Hennepin County Board, the population housed at the hotels is comprised of people with an elevated COVID-19 health risk – the elderly and those with underlying conditions. The county plans to use funds from the federal CARES Act, which are meant for costs related to the pandemic.

Social distancing is difficult to accomplish in traditional shelters, and the county began housing homeless people in hotels to prevent large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks that cities such as Boston, New York and San Francisco have experienced, the report notes. While the county addresses homelessness by leasing space at the Holiday Inns, other organizations are using hotels in Bloomington, including a Super 8 and a Comfort Inn, for the same purpose.

The hotels are receiving extra attention from a public safety perspective. Since March, the number of police calls for service at the hotels has increased sharply compared to 2019, Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts told the City Council last month.

City approvals will still be required for the county to enact its plan at the Extended Stay America site. Bloomington Councilmember Jack Baloga advocated for a study session to explore the land use implications of the venture.

Mayor Tim Busse agreed. “I want to make sure that the city is involved very explicitly in terms of requirements and details as to how the operations will take place and what the expectations are,” Busse said.

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