An increase in the number of homeless people in Saint Paul and a dearth of indoor places for them to go during the day is behind an effort to expand the number of day shelters in the city. A set of newly proposed zoning regulations for homeless day shelters will be reviewed by the City Council in a public hearing at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 6.
 
City staff had recommended that day shelters only be allowed within a quarter-mile of an overnight shelter for homeless people. However, the Saint Paul Planning Commission has recommended that the facilities be allowed in neighborhoods throughout the city on property zoned for commercial or mixed commercial and residential uses. Facilities larger than 7,000 square feet would require a conditional use permit before they could open.
 
Freedom House
The Freedom House day shelter for the homeless at 296 W. Seventh St. would require a conditional use permit to operate under the new zoning rules under consideration by the Saint Paul City Council. Photo by Casey Ek
 
Day shelters provide a place where people without a home can relax and obtain refreshments and help with various social services. However, concerns have been raised about the need for additional regulations to prevent the adverse impacts from poorly run facilities.
 
For example, residents and businesses in the Seven Corners area along West Seventh Street have butted heads with the operators of Freedom House, a large homeless day shelter that opened last winter in a former fire station when the COVID-19 pandemic closed public libraries and other city facilities where homeless people found shelter during the day.
 
Freedom House clients have been blamed for an increase in vandalism and theft in the area as well as public intoxication, urination and defecation. Under the proposed zoning regulations, Freedom House would be required to obtain a conditional use permit to remain open.
 
The October 6 public hearing will be held virtually. To register for the link, visit stpaul.gov.
 
Written comments for the hearing may be made by emailing contact-council@ci.stpaul.mn.us or calling 651-266-6805 by noon on October 5.

— Jane McClure

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