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Hennepin Shelter Hotline helps residents navigate housing options

girl sitting down with headset on

Hennepin Shelter Hotline is a single-point-of-entry system meant to help residents find alternatives to emergency shelter.

In early 2023, Hennepin County launched Hennepin Shelter Hotline, meant for any person 18 years and older or part of a family who is seeking emergency shelter. The simplified and improved system is helping residents explore their options, helping them identify other safe short-term solutions other than shelter and direct residents toward the correct emergency shelter option if needed.

Youth, families, and single adults are provided with a new, single number where they can connect with a trained specialist.

The specialist will work to understand what’s causing someone’s housing crisis and explore what immediate solutions may be possible. Some options may include:

  • Help finding immediate permanent housing
  • Short-term, non-shelter accommodation, such as staying with friends or family
  • A referral to the emergency shelter system

The strategy is called "diversion" and is a nationally recognized best practice intended to prevent someone from entering the shelter system. The idea is to immediately get the resident into a safe housing alternative, which may be short-or long-term.

An improved system for residents

Principal Planning Analyst Erin Wixsten hopes Hennepin Shelter Hotline will result in a more consistent, efficient and effective response to homelessness over time: “We hope to see households who are experiencing a housing crisis avoid entering shelter, which would increase the overall capacity of the homelessness response system and lead to better outcomes for people facing crisis.”

The primary number provided to residents does not replace existing services, such as Adult Shelter Connect, emergency shelter for families, Youth Services Network, domestic violence support, other crisis lines, or emergency rent assistance.

Instead, it provides another layer of support, helping residents who are facing a housing emergency to consider all available options instead of expecting them to navigate the system on their own. The primary goal is that all populations — single adults, families, and youth — seeking shelter are both provided diversion services and are guided to the correct resource for their unique situation.

“At the end of the day we’re making sure that people who need help get to the right place for the right intervention,” said Wixsten.

Catholic Charities operates the service for anyone who is seeking shelter, and partner organizations are helping to let community members know about the service.

Hennepin County strives to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring. This strategy aligns with that goal by preventing homelessness when possible, providing rapid exits out of homelessness when it does occur, and finding safe and stable housing so homelessness does not occur again.