Vacant Luther Seminary dorm is temporary homeless shelter

By Scott Carlson

As a new year is dawning, a former dormitory at Luther Seminary is taking on a new life: It has become a temporary homeless shelter.

Seminary officials signed a lease effective Dec. 1 that allows Ramsey County to use the religious institution’s vacant Stub Hall through the end of April 2021 to provide temporary housing to more than 75 women and some couples experiencing homelessness.

“We feel a call to use all of our facilities for our neighbors in need,” Heidi Droegemueller, vice-president for Luther Seminary relations, said at a recent virtual community meeting attended by more than 200 people.

Ramsey County officials said that leasing the Stub Hall building will help ease the shortage of available housing for homeless people, a problem that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to using Stub Hall, the county was largely relying on a hotel program to provide shelter for some homeless people.

Currently, Ramsey County estimates there were several hundred homeless people in emergency shelters during periods of 2020.

The temporary Stub Hall shelter is operating 24/7 with trained staff on site, also providing meals and other support services. The county screens potential residents before admitting them to the shelter, said Keith Lattimore, director of the Ramsey County Housing Stability Department, which was recently initiated to consolidate the county’s various housing programs under one roof.

Ramsey County is also providing around-the-clock security services at the building entrance of the former dormitory and adjacent grounds.

“This is a short-term solution” for providing shelter to homeless people, Ramsey County Manager Ryan O’Connor said at the virtual community meeting about the Stub Hall housing. “This gets us through the winter.”

Shelter residents are admitted on a referral basis, according to county officials. “Other existing shelters and outreach teams made up of community partners and law enforcement refer women and couples experiencing homelessness to the facility. Once referred, residents could stay for several days, like the county’s existing hotel shelter programs,” the county said on its website.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the county has implemented protocols aimed at minimizing the risk of its staff and shelter residents getting infected by COVID-19.

“Currently, health screenings are completed daily around mealtimes to check residents for symptoms of COVID-19,” the county said on its website. “People who show symptoms or test positive are placed at a respite site so they can be in isolation and quarantine. If multiple positive tests originate from one location within a certain period of time, the state and local public health departments determine if mass testing is necessary. We’ve been successful in keeping infection rates low and would continue to use these strategies at Stub Hall.”

For further information, check out the Ramsey County website and FAQ.

Scott Carlson is Bugle managing editor.

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