By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners has voted to move forward with plans that would turn St. Paul’s Bethesda Hospital into a facility with about 100 beds for those experiencing homelessness.

On Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to approve the $1.2 million lease agreement with M Health Fairview that would utilize the hospital as an emergency shelter.

Ramsey County officials say there are an unprecedented amount of people unsheltered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a clear and urgent need to provide shelter for members of our community who are experiencing homelessness right now, and the situation is only becoming more perilous as temperatures drop,” Ramsey County Board Chair Toni Carter. “With the approval of this agreement, the Bethesda site can continue to serve those in need to benefit the community as it has for many decades.”

In addition to beds, the facility will be staffed at all hours to provide services. Around the clock security services will also be implemented.

“Once referred, residents can stay for multiple days in their own rooms with access to meals, bathroom and shower facilities, as well as day services. This provides a stable environment and opportunities to connect with on-site support services for mental and chemical health, housing stability, workforce and veterans assistance,” the county said in a statement.

There will also be another area of the building used to provide COVID-19 respite care and symptom monitoring that’s currently being provided for a small number of individuals at the former Boys Totem Town site.

County officials say there will be more engagement with the surrounding community and neighbors as plans for the site progress and services come online. Community members are encouraged to visit ramseycounty.us/bethesda to share comments and learn more about upcoming events.

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