COVID-19 Response and Resources for Homeless Service Providers

While we’ve been living with COVID-19 for quite some time now, it remains a new disease and we are still learning about the role of different types of transmission and to what extent it may spread in Minnesota.

Key Public Health Resources

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.

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.

Emergency Staffing Pool Resource

The State of Minnesota has launched a new resource to support residential programs experiencing COVID-19 related staffing shortages. Eligible facilities for emergency staffing include: homeless shelters, shelters for domestic violence survivors, site-based supportive housing programs, boarding care, and board and lodge programs. Applicants must certify that they have at least one suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case among staff or guests and that they have already implemented their program’s contingency or crisis staffing plan. Once approved, the staffing firm will try to place temporary employees within 48 hours. Temporary staff can be assigned to the program for up to 14 days. Click here to access the online application.

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.

Check out a summary of 2020 Point-In-Time Count.

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 (see bill language here):

  • $26.5 million in Emergency Services Program (ESP-CV) 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 ESP-CV funding has been critical to responding to community needs and has been instrumental in supporting additional shelter capacity, purchasing hygiene/sanitation supplies for shelters and outreach workers, and supporting provider staffing needs. In August, the Walz-Flanagan administration allocated $19 million in Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF-ESP) to sustain the work being funded by the ESP-CV program as that funding is spent down.

The Federal CARES Act and state actions have allocated various funding to support the COVID-19 response for people experiencing homelessness. Funding Summary Chart to highlight the various state and federal funding sources to support COVID-19 response.

The state applied for pre-approval for reimbursement eligibility for non-congregate sheltering to help care for Minnesotans who need a space to safely isolate because they are high risk due to age or underlying health conditions, are positive for COVID-19 and do not require hospitalization, or have had exposure and do not need hospitalization.

The 2020 legislative session ended in May. If you are interested in learning more about the legislative session check out these resources:

State and Local Programs to Promote Housing Stability

The state and local communities have developed programs to support households with housing payment prevent evictions and foreclosures. These resources are key to preventing people from becoming homeless. Click here to find out more about a variety of state and local programs.

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 reach out to elizabeth.dressel@state.mn.us with any questions or challenges registering.

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.

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 Safe MN and Protections for At-Risk Populations

On Wednesday, May 13, 2020, Governor Walz signed Emergency Executive Order 20-55, Providing for Protection of Rights and Health of At-Risk Populations during a Peacetime State of Emergency due to COVID-19 and Emergency Executive Order 20-56, Safely Reopening Minnesota’s Economy and Ensuring Safe Non-Work Activities. These new executive orders come as the Stay at Home Executive Order expired on Sunday, May 17. As business reopen and restrictions on movement are lifted, Executive Order 20-55 seeks to provide the supports and protections for Minnesotans at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 and allow vulnerable populations to be seen, participate, and access opportunities. An overview and response to frequently asked questions about EO 20-55 can be found here.

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.

Suspending Evictions and Writs of Recovery

Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-14 suspending evictions and writs of recovery during the COVID-19 peacetime state of emergency. The order keeps people stably housed and prevents displacement during this health emergency. Minnesota Housing is the agency responsible for overseeing this Executive Order. Visit the Minnesota Housing website to find more information and access FAQ’s and guidance they have shared for renters and homeowners.