COVID-19 Response and Resources for Homeless Service Providers

COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads, the severity of illness and causes, and to what extent it may spread in Minnesota.  For information about COVID-19 and for the situation update for COVID-19 in Minnesota, visit the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website. The Governor continues to provide community mitigation tools for the state, to to date information can be found on the Strategies to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota page of MDH’s website. MDH has posted Materials and Resources on COVID-19 translated in multiple languages and ASL for providers serving non-English speaking individuals and families.

Homeless providers and local public health agencies are urged to connect with each other about COVID-19 preparation and response. MDH maintains a list of local public health agencies. In addition, local public health agencies may download a list of all shelter and drop-in programs operating within their jurisdictions. Note: we will revise this list to include any additional programs that we identify.

The CDC has provided specific resources that relate to providers serving people experiencing homelessness. Interim guidance for homeless service providers to plan and respond to coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and on March 22, 2020 they shared new interim guidance for responding to COVID-19 among people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.

Funding Resources

Apply for available funding and get more information on funding opportunities on the Funding Resources Page.

On March 26, the state legislature passed a $330 million emergency funding package that was signed by Governor Walz on March 28. This legislation secured important and much needed funding for providers serving people experiencing homelessness. The funding included:

  • $26.5 million in Emergency Services Program (ESP) funding to provide flexible funding to support providers COVID-19 response.
  • $5.5 million is Housing Support payment increase from March, April, and May.
  • $11 million for tribal nations to support the COVID-19 response.

The bill language details the specifics for the ESP funding and Housing Support increase.

Symptom Alert System for Shelters (SASS)

The Minnesota Department of Health has created a tool for homeless service providers in Minnesota to report possible cases of COVID-19, based on symptoms, to MDH. If you are interested in participating and want to learn more about SASS, or are ready to submit information, visit the SASS page.

Weekly Provider Webinars

Join the weekly statewide webinar to hear updates and information on COVID-19 specific to staff working with people experiencing homelessness. The webinars take place every Wednesday from 1:00-2:00 pm and are hosted by staff from the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Department of Health, and Department of Human Service. Please register for the webinars here. Please email your webinar questions to elizabeth.dressel@state.mn.us by 12:00pm each Wednesday. You can also submit questions during the webinar using the question chat box.

Click here to find all slides and webinar recordings on the webinar materials page.

Stay Connected

The state team will be sending regular newsletters with updates and important information. Please sign up! Visit MN Housing and fill in the required fields, select Topics and Issues for Providers Serving People Experiencing Homelessness, and click Submit. Help us spread the word and encourage your colleagues to sign up.

Frequently Asked Questions (and answers!)

Check out a list of frequently asked questions and answers about COVID-19 and how it impacts people experiencing homelessness, shelter providers, outreach workers, and congregate living settings. We will update this list often as information and guidance are quickly evolving as more is learned about COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Other Resources

Visit the Resources Page to find information and guidance specific to providers serving people experiencing homelessness. This page has guidance from the CDC, HUD, COVID-19 shelter tips from Healthcare for the Homeless, examples of emergency preparedness plans, and other resources.

Executive Orders

Governor Walz has taken an number of steps and issued a series of Executive Orders to support the state’s response to COVID-19. To see a full timeline of his actions, visit the Governor’s Office COVID-19 page. If you want to see the full text of any of the Governor’s Executive Orders, visit the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. The state team continues to raise the needs of people experiencing homelessness and we wanted to share specific guidance related to the issued Executive Orders.

Stay at Home

Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-20 directing Minnesotans to Stay at Home. The Executive Order includes some specific language related to people experiencing homelessness. It strongly urges governmental and other entities to increase 24/7 shelter as soon as possible and local authorities should not sweep encampments. It states,“Individuals without a home are exempt from the restrictions in this Executive Order, and they may move between emergency shelters, drop-in centers, and encampments. Encampments should not be subject to sweeps or disbandment by state or local governments, as such sweeps or disbandment increase the potential risk and spread of COVID-19.”

School Based Childcare

Under the Governor’s Executive Order 20-02, free school age care for children of emergency workers was outlined. The order directed schools to provide care to, at a minimum, district-enrolled students 12 and under. School districts must provide care to children of people in all the fields listed in Tier 1. Tier 1 includes emergency shelter staff, drop-in staff, and group and supportive housing staff. The Care for Children of Families of Emergency Workers Tier Descriptions details all of the fields in Tier 1 and Tier 2.

School Closure

Governor Tim Walz and Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker have announced that all Minnesota public school districts and charter schools will implement a Distance Learning Period beginning on March 30, 2020, until at least April 30, 2020 (Executive Order 20-19).  The pair previously announced that all Minnesota public schools closed from March 18 through March 27, 2020, to allow districts and charter schools to develop distancing learning plans. School districts are expected to plan for the specific needs of students experiencing homelessness.  The State of Minnesota’s recommendations for districts includes a section about meeting the needs of these students and recommends that districts reach out to local partners, including Continuums of Care and local homeless shelters and drop-in centers.