New Minneapolis homeless shelter hopes to aid those in need

A new Minneapolis homeless shelter hopes it has a model that can scale up to tackle the issue.

Simpson Housing Services broke ground Wednesday in the Whittier neighborhood.

Digging the dirt may be the easy part for people trying to reduce homelessness to a minimum.

Over the next year, Simpson Housing Services will fill a hole with its new facility including 42 transitional housing apartments.

"Those 42 units of supportive housing, for example, said Steve Horsfield, executive director of Simpson Housing Services. "Those are life-changing."

72 shelter beds can address immediate needs, highlighted by tents set up just across the street or a new encampment a few blocks away where neighbors tell us they’re frequent targets for property crimes, and they see feces nearly every day.

But long-term solutions are more complicated.

On the day of the groundbreaking, Hennepin County reported having just 4 long-term and 31 overnight beds available, not even as many as people living at the nearby camp.

The county counted a 24% increase in its unhoused population last year.

Simpson executive director Steve Horsfield says it’s hard to keep up with the demand for shelter.

But their model of putting people in temporary housing near transit and services is a step in the right direction.

Another model is Avivo’s 100-plus indoor tiny homes shelter.

It is a very, very low barrier shelter," Avivo CEO Kelly Matter told FOX 9. "So we eliminate, you know, any of the barriers that that people talk about to, to accessing shelter."

They’ve reversed about 200 overdoses, had 18 babies born, and just celebrated placing 200 people in permanent housing since opening the North Loop space 3.5 years ago.

So would building 20 more Simpson homes or Avivo Villages solve homelessness?

"You know, I don't know if it would go away," said Matter. "It would certainly make a huge dent."

"If we had half a dozen of these, you know, kind of scattered around the Metro, and we are doing the work well of public housing and section eight and all the other resources that we need to bring to bear on the bigger housing stability question, that's the right sort of solution," Horsfield said.

Advocates for the unhoused say factors like mental health and drug use are relatively steady, but the cost of housing is exacerbating homeless more than anything else right now.