Relocation of Drake Hotel fire victims moves slowly

Dozens of victims left homeless after a fire ripped through their low-income housing building in downtown Minneapolis remain in shelters as more permanent answers prove elusive.

The Christmas Day fire at the Drake Hotel hit an family shelter system that was already stretched thin. Hennepin County officials moved 29 families from the Drake to a hotel in Bloomington, where many are still staying. Meanwhile, about 60 single adults who were also tenants at the Drake are staying in a Red Cross shelter downtown.

Neither the Red Cross nor Hennepin County have plans to shutter the temporary facilities, as relocation of the fire victims has been slow going.

At a Hennepin County Board meeting Tuesday afternoon, commissioners were briefed on the county’s response to the fire.

County staffers have begun to transition families from the hotel in Bloomington to other housing options, said Jodi Wentland, assistant administrator for health and human services.

“We’ve had multiple case managers, social workers on site throughout the day at the hotel,” Wentland said. “We are now beginning to transition families that did not have an immediate housing option to our family shelter system.”

Hennepin County was using the Drake Hotel as an overflow shelter for families, meaning other shelter space is mostly full. The families had been receiving county vouchers to stay at the Drake.

“I really am looking at the future and looking at the hole that not having the Drake will leave, in terms of the housing situation for a number of folks who are experiencing homelessness,” Commissioner Angela Conley said.

Single adults were paying to rent rooms at the Drake Hotel. They are now the residents staying in the Red Cross shelter at First Covenant Church downtown.

The number of people staying in the shelter fluctuates daily but 58 to 60 people are usually in the facility at night, shelter manager Kyle Parkinson said.

The number one goal: transitioning the people to apartments, Parkinson said.

“Of course you want that to happen as soon as possible because we want them to resume their lives,” she said. “We want them to move on and recover from this tragedy so that is the number one goal right now – how can we assist them?”

But it’s been difficult: one person moved out Monday, and another on Tuesday, Parkinson said.

“We’re all here for one purpose and one purpose only and that’s to help the residents of the Drake,” she said.