West Central Minnesota

Continuum of Care

COVID-19 Information and Updates

Expanded Outbreak Response Funding

Wednesday’s weekly webinar highlighted expanded eligibility for the congregate emergency shelter providers applying for COVID-19 outbreak response funding. Effective yesterday, the Fiscal Recovery Funds for Shelter (FRF-Shelter) from the DHS Office of Economic Opportunity have been expanded as follows:

  • Congregate shelters do not need to have a current Covid outbreak to apply for FRF-Shelter funding under the survey. We have made this change recognizing that with the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, more shelters may face outbreaks and could use these resources to prepare.
  • During an outbreak, the Isolation and Quarantine activity can be expanded to include protective spaces for those not yet testing positive, if recommended by MDH or local public health.
  • In addition to the existing eligible expenses outlined on the Heading Home Alliance website, providers are encouraged to consider COVID-mitigation expenses in the “Other” Activity Category that may be essential to an Omicron response. These include (but are not limited to):

    • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Pulse Oximeters
    • Expanded testing/test kits (including tests sold in stores if necessary)
    • Medical transportation to/from appointments or testing and vaccination sites.
    • On-site medical monitoring if available

The FRF Shelter Funding survey will not be updated to reflect the expanded eligibility until Friday, December 31, 2021 – however new expenses incurred by eligible providers will be allowable retroactive to December 22, 2021.  These expenses can be submitted once the survey has been updated with these new guidelines.

Finally, DHS and its fiscal processor will make every effort to approve and disburse funds quickly. Applicants should anticipate that it will take at least two weeks from the request date for funds to be received.  

Additional information on the shelter outbreak response funding can be found on the Heading Home Alliance website.

COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus. There is much to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features of the disease. Lack of housing contributes to poor health outcomes, and linkage to permanent housing should continue to be a priority. People experiencing unsheltered homelessness (those sleeping outside or in places not meant for human habitation) and those in congregate settings may be at higher risk for infection when there is community spread of COVID-19. 

Reaching and protecting people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak will require coordination across several local sectors. To prevent negative outcomes from lack of services, community leaders should continue activities that protect people experiencing homelessness, including supporting continuity of homeless services, healthcare, behavioral health services, food pantries, and linkages to permanent housing. Plans need to be clearly communicated to all stakeholders.

 Homeless shelters and other facilities should  refer to the Interim Guidance for Homeless Shelters. Community and faith-based organizations can refer to the Interim Guidance for Community and Faith-based Organizations for other information related to their staff and organizations.

MN Provider call for shelters, outreach and drop-in centers

Each Wednesday at 1 PM Cathy tenBroeke will be hosting a call for homeless providers. To register please go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/509183141089613325 


Important things for you to know: 

  • This is entirely voluntary. If you do not want to participate, you do not have to.   
  • The information we are collecting is aggregate/summary level only- we are not asking for any individual information.  
  • We are doing this in partnership with the CDC, who has asked Minnesota to start monitoring for symptoms in shelters. Again, your partnership is entirely voluntary.  
  • For participating HMIS providers, you may receive information in the near future about using HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) for COVID-19 screening, tracking and public health alerts.  
  • Because HMIS is a client-level database that does not include staff or regular volunteers, and not all shelter providers are in HMIS or will choose to use this functionality, we do not believe these two efforts overlap..  
  • SASS data is entered via survey (REDCap). You do not need a username or password, and can use the same survey link every time you enter information.   

***  This tool is not intended to replace testing. Shelter guests, staff, and outreach workers are all included as prioritized COVID-19 testing populations. If you are concerned that someone might have COVID-19 based on their symptoms, please contact their healthcare provider or call the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414 for guidance on testing.  

To Complete the SASS Survey Click the Link Below:
Symptom Alert System for Shelters (SASS) 

  1. The State Dept of Health has downloadable posters and flyers to be used at your agencies and social media toolkits for awareness. https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/materials/index.html
  2. Check out the CoC and MN Heading Home Alliance websites (https://headinghomealliance.com/covid-19-response/)  

CDC Guidance for Homeless services outreach staff When COVID-19 is spreading in your community, assign outreach staff who are at higher risk for severe illness to other duties. Advise outreach staff who will be continuing outreach activities on how to protect themselves and their clients from COVID-19 in the course of their normal duties. Instruct staff to:
  • Greet clients from a distance of 6 feet and explain that you are taking additional precautions to protect yourself and the client from COVID-19.
  • Screen clients for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 by asking them if they have a fever, new or worsening cough, or shortness of breath
    • If the client has a cough, immediately provide them with a surgical mask to wear.
    • If urgent medical attention is necessary, use standard outreach protocols to facilitate access to healthcare.
  • Continue conversations and provision of information while maintaining 6 feet of distance.
  • Maintain good hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) on a regular basis.
  • Wear gloves if you need to handle client belongings. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer (>60% alcohol) before and after wearing gloves.
  • If at any point you do not feel that you are able to protect yourself or your client from the spread of COVID-19, discontinue the interaction and notify your supervisor. Examples include if the client declines to wear a mask or if you are unable to maintain a distance of 6 feet.
  • Provide all clients with hygiene products, when available.
  • Street medicine and healthcare worker outreach staff should review and follow recommendations for healthcare workers.
  • Review stress and coping resources for yourselves and your clients during this time.