RELEASE: Ramsey County Board approve lease of Bethesda Hospital site for emergency shelter space

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October 20, 2020

Ramsey County Board of Commissioners approve lease of Bethesda Hospital site for emergency shelter space

The facility will provide 100+ beds, 24/7 services for those experiencing homelessness through spring 2022

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners today voted unanimously to move forward with a $1.2 million lease agreement with M Health Fairview to utilize Bethesda Hospital in Saint Paul as an emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness. The lease would be in effect from Dec. 1, 2020, through May 31, 2022. With an unprecedented number of people now unsheltered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramsey County and its partners have been working to add at least 100 shelter beds by this winter.

“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,” said 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.”

Ramsey County and its partners have invested millions of dollars since the beginning of the pandemic to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19 and address the risks and pressure the existing housing crisis has put on the East Metro. To date, the county and its partners have added 194 new beds through lease agreements with hotels and Mary Hall; expanded the Ramsey County Safe Space for year-round use; and converted other facilities into respite sites for those who are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19. Even with these additional resources, hundreds of residents continue to sleep outside and unsheltered on any given night in Ramsey County, and county leaders will continue to urge state and regional partners to take further action to address this urgent issue as winter sets in.

As part of a larger organizational restructuring that would close Bethesda Hospital, M Health Fairview approached Ramsey County in mid-September with the possibility of leasing parts of the building for an emergency shelter. The site uniquely offers a turnkey facility that will provide safe and dignified shelter for people through the next two winters. The facility will be staffed 24/7 to provide about 100 beds for unsheltered individuals referred to the site through outreach teams made up of community partners and law enforcement. 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. Another area of the building will be used to provide COVID-19 respite care and symptom monitoring currently provided for a small number of individuals at the former Boys Totem Town site.

To enhance the safety of shelter residents and the surrounding community, around-the-clock security services will be provided by Ramsey County and the HealthEast Care System through a security services agreement. Outreach staff will also work in the surrounding area, connecting people already in the neighborhood to the facility and related services. M Health Fairview maintenance staff will be retained at Bethesda to care for the building and grounds.

The county will continue to engage the surrounding community and neighbors as plans for the site progress and services come online in the weeks and months ahead. To share comments and learn more about the site and upcoming community engagement opportunities, community members are encouraged to visit

View the video of the Oct. 20 County Board meeting

John Siqveland,, 651-746-9250