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Ramsey County eyes another potential homeless crisis as $53 million in emergency shelter funding runs dry

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Sonya Apple talks about the opportunities shelters such as Luther Seminary's Stub Hall in St. Paul have provided her.

After working her regular overnight shift at a convenience store off Interstate 94, Sonya Apple sat down in a downtown St. Paul stairwell and cried. She was hungry, homeless and feeling ill — the first signs, she would later learn, of COVID-19.

A St. Paul Police officer drove up and invited her to join the city’s deputy mayor and county officials on Kellogg Boulevard, where shuttle vans were taking destitute residents of a sizable tent city to emergency shelters assembled virtually overnight throughout the city.

Apple, who had avoided downtown shelters out of concern for her own safety, accepted the offer, the first step in a two-year journey toward stability. It’s an active endeavor, as in she’s not fully there yet.

Still, while living in a former seminarian dormitory at Luther Seminary’s Stub Hall, she’s finally had time to grieve the younger sister she lost to suicide in 2018, and her 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, whom she lost custody of two years before that.

“It’s helped mentally, physically, spiritually, just having a place to call home,” said Apple, who figures she and her 43 neighbors would otherwise be out on the streets.

TEMPORARY SITES SHUTTERED

That’s not necessarily a far-flung likelihood.

Since December 2020, Ramsey County officials have scrambled to relocate upwards of 1,800 homeless residents from outdoor tents, public parks and light-rail train cars to temporary shelters backed by $53 million in federal COVID relief dollars and state and county funding.

Many of those temporary sites have since shuttered as funding runs out.

Barring a major financial injection, both 70-bed Stub Hall in South St. Anthony Park and 134-bed Mary Hall in downtown St. Paul could be the next to close in late June. Hennepin County ended its temporary emergency shelter program a year ago. Ramsey County’s Bethesda Shelter, at Fairview’s former Bethesda Hospital, closed earlier this month. Freedom House, a day center for the homeless operating out of a converted fire station on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street, closed its doors on May 8.

HOMELESS RESIDENTS FROM OUTSIDE RAMSEY COUNTY

During the course of the pandemic, as county officials have settled homeless residents into emergency beds, they’ve made what some might call a surprising discovery.

Far fewer than half of those surveyed said their last known permanent address before the streets was St. Paul, or even Ramsey County. Some 29 percent of residents said they came from outside of the county, with as many as half of that population hailing from Hennepin County. Another 18 percent said they had come in from out of state. And for 11 percent, their last permanent address was unclear.

In other words, only 763 out of the 1,837 people surveyed through Jan. 29 could claim St. Paul or Ramsey County as their longtime home. The county didn’t just step up to house its homeless during the pandemic. County officials have been housing homeless residents from across Minnesota, and beyond.

“Right there it shows it’s a regional problem, and it’s frustrating because it shows there hasn’t been a regional approach to tackling it,” Jennifer O’Rourke, the county’s director of government relations, said in an interview Wednesday.

No one was turned away, added Keith Lattimore, director of Ramsey County’s Housing Stability Department. “When folks were in need, we addressed that. And right now we’re just hoping that we can continue to serve people.”

COUNTY SEEKS HELP FROM STATE BUDGET SURPLUS

Lattimore acknowledged the outlook is not promising.

With a deadline looming Monday, state lawmakers are in the final hours of divvying up on paper what could be an $8 billion state budget surplus. A House bill introduced by state Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, with the support of the city and county delegation, called for funding Ramsey County’s emergency shelter operations at up to $14.5 million annually for five years. A compromise proposal called for $8 million in annual funding, and then $6 million.

MORE: Homeless encampments growing again in St. Paul as relief funding runs out

As of the latter part of the week, the Republican-led Senate had yet to propose funds.

These are “trade offers,” said O’Rourke on Wednesday.

“I would attribute that to all of the competing interests going on up here,” O’Rourke said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in the past 24 hours. We keep working it. We’ve had the whole Ramsey County delegation sign on in support of this bill. That’s 16 House members, and on the Senate side Sen. Jim Abeler, (a Republican) from Anoka signed onto the bill.”

Those efforts have also received backing from state Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester.

Among a wide hodgepodge of funding sources, Ramsey County has kept its emergency programs afloat through an internal loan to itself of $5.2 million. On Tuesday, county manager Ryan O’Connor plans to return to the county’s Board of Commissioners with another request for $5 million, with the hope that some of the funding will be paid back by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “The county is having to go back to the board, as we’ve exhausted everything and beyond that we had to spend,” Lattimore said.

The alternative could be more people sleeping on St. Paul’s streets this winter, even if many of them are not from St. Paul.

The county funded as many as 500 temporary emergency beds at a time, with additional beds and services provided by nonprofit partners. St. Paul and Ramsey County have committed to backing $74 million in “deeply” affordable housing aimed at the very poor, with the goal of transitioning residents out of emergency situations and into more permanent housing.

Still, not everyone is ready to make that leap. Jim Langer, manager of the county’s housing stability department, said he’s already moved some Stub Hall residents into a four-month transitional housing program, with the hope of readying them for more permanent arrangements.

ZUMBA FOR THE HOMELESS

Sonya Apple talks about the opportunities shelters such as Luther Seminary’s Stub Hall in St. Paul have provided her. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Apple, a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe of South Dakota, has lived in the area since the 1990s. She said that before the pandemic, she rode the Green Line light rail and the A Line rapid bus after her overnight work shifts just to get some rest. That changed on that seemingly hopeless day in January 2020 when she agreed to board the county’s excursion van at Kellogg Mall Park.

After that, Apple said she spent 10 lonely days in temporary respite care at the former Bethesda Hospital, which Ramsey County outfitted in part for COVID-positive residents. That shelter — which housed as many as 132 people at at time — closed this month when relief funding ran dry.

Apple later spent a year at a Best Western Hotel through the county’s hotel voucher program, which she liked because she had access to her own private bathroom. She put herself through an online Zumba course that helped settle her racing thoughts, got back onto a regular schedule of contacting her probation officer and kept up with outpatient treatment. The hotel voucher program ended last fall.

For the past few months, Apple has resided at another county-backed facility: Stub Hall. She shares a small second-floor dorm room with her boyfriend, grabs her meals from a downstairs hall and enjoys the fresh air and pastoral backdrop of the college-like campus, making it a goal to do something productive every day.

On June 22, Stub Hall, too, will run its course.

“I’m already starting to plan for the closure,” Langer said. “I’ve closed every other site. I don’t want to close this one.”

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Ira Winderman: NBA free-agency period more about trade season for Heat

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Ira Winderman: NBA free-agency period more about trade season for Heat

The most pressing question when it comes to Friday’s start of NBA free agency is . . . why?

Arguably, with scant few exceptions, this year there is no there there.

Yes, Bradley Beal will at least create the impression that he will explore options. Then he will re-sign with the Washington Wizards. All signs point in that direction.

Yes, Deandre Ayton is the rare restricted free agent who could actually leave via an offer sheet. But even then, it appears there are few dance partners, particularly with the draft approach taken by the cap-flush Detroit Pistons.

Yes, the New York Knicks will attempt to wildly overspend on Jalen Brunson, but even that will require additional cap gymnastics.

And can the Chicago Bulls actually afford to allow Zach LaVine to bolt after he was the linchpin of the (still-painful) trade of Jimmy Butler?

Otherwise, there are some intriguing names on the free-agent list, but also players whose ties are so strong to their current teams that the start of free agency merely should provide a rubber stamp, such as Kevon Looney with the Golden State Warriors, Anfernee Simmons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Bobby Portis with the Milwaukee Bucks and, seemingly (although when it comes to cash no one knows with Michael Jordan) Miles Bridges with the Charlotte Hornets.

Beyond that, only the Pistons, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs (and perhaps Knicks) have workable cap space above the $10.3 million mid-level salary-cap exception (and even then 12 teams don’t even have that because of their standing against the luxury tax).

So if the Miami Heat, or most teams, hope to make a splash during what is termed free agency but actually is the transaction period, trades likely will be the path.

As it was for Pat Riley’s front office in 2019 for Butler.

As it was last summer for the Heat with Kyle Lowry.

Essentially, we’re likely talking about the Summer of the Mid-Level Exception.

Because when you look at the free-agent list, beyond the aforementioned Beal, Ayton, LaVine, Brunson, and even Looney, Simons, Portis and Bridges, there otherwise are little more than complementary components.

How limited? The next tier appears to be Bruce Brown, P.J. Tucker, T.J. Warren, Gary Harris, Mitchell Robinson, Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Kyle Anderson, Malik Monk, Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher, Victor Oladipo, Nicolas Batum, Delon Wright, Joe Ingles, Mo Bamba, Derrick Jones Jr., Dennis Schroder, Caleb Martin and Cody Martin.

Hardly transformative.

As far as free agency and the Heat, this summer could be something closer to James Johnson-Dion Waiters-Wayne Ellington (2016) or Avery Bradley-Maurice Harkless (2020).

Perhaps a pitch to Young as a replacement (if needed) for Tucker. Perhaps Ingles as an Oladipo-type low-cost rehab project.

Otherwise, the real list for the Heat might not be the free-agent list at all, but rather the intel of who might be available in trades, as well as the potential costs.

The chips are there: Duncan Robinson as cap filler, Tyler Herro as an intriguing prospect, and 2023 and 2028 first-round picks that could be put into play.

A splash is still possible, because it seemingly always is possible when it comes to Riley.

But this summer, perhaps even this coming week, it likely will be about more than getting a name signed on the dotted line. Instead, an upgrade likely will have to come through tricks of the trade.

Forget the start of free agency. This summer, it looks like the trade market will hold the greatest sway.

IN THE LANE

EVOLVING WINDOW: When it comes to a potential Philadelphia 76ers move for the Heat’s Tucker in free agency, keep an eye on two names: Matisse Thybulle and Furkan Korkmoz. If the 76ers can do something to shed those contracts, they could move below the luxury-tax line to make a three-year, $33 million offer to Tucker built off the non-taxpayer $10.3 million mid-level exception, trumping the $27 million the Heat could comfortably pay over that term without touching exception money. However, with Philadelphia’s draft-night move for De’Anthony Melton, it seemingly takes the 76ers out of play with the full mid-level and therefore seemingly out of play for Tucker, left instead with the taxpayer $6.4 million mid-level exception. The Heat, without touching their mid-level exception, could start a new Tucker contract at $8.4 million for next season.

BEASLEY’S BACK: Back playing competitively on U.S. soil for the first time since he was traded by the Los Angeles Lakers midway through the 2018-19 season, former Heat first-round pick Michael Beasley had quite the debut last week in the Big3 halfcourt circuit, including a pair of 4-point shots (from a circle set up near midcourt). Playing for the 3′s Company team captained by former Heat guard Mario Chalmers, Beasley closed with 26 points in the first-team-to-50 game format. The 50-47 victory was sealed by a winning basket from Chalmers, who briefly was with the Heat on a 10-day contract this past season (albeit not seeing action). The Beasley-Chalmers win came despite 26 points in opposition from former Heat guard Gerald Green.

NEXT TASK: With a goal of incorporating more mid-range shots into his game, Heat guard Gabe Vincent said he already has his offseason study guide. “There are two guys in this league that are really good and are on the same team. Chris Paul and Devin Booker have been great at it,” Vincent said during a visit to the Heat’s youth summer camp. “Obviously, DeMar [DeRozan], it’s part of his game now. [Carmelo Anthony] made a career off of it. But I think Chris Paul might be one of those guys that’s just a specialist in the pick-and-roll, a legend of this game. He uses it to his advantage to keep the defense honest. You go back and watch older film of Gilbert Arenas, those guys could always get to the elbows in an iso situation and get a shot up. So the play is there.”

CONTRASTING VIEW: While it appears Beal will take his maximum payoff from the Wizards in free agency, at least one NBA legend thinks it’s a mistake, especially with a potential suitor such as the Heat out there. “Miami would be a very dangerous team and possibly even win a championship with Bradley Beal along with Jimmy Butler and what they have down there. Just a phenomenal player and that’d be perfect,” Tracy McGrady told NBC Sports Washington. “I’m just telling you the truth. He’s been faithful to the Wizards, man. It’s time for him to play for a championship.”

YOUTH SERVED: With the 2022-23 regular season scheduled to start on Oct. 18 and with Heat first-round pick Nikola Jovik born on June 9, 2003, he stands to become the youngest Heat player in the franchise’s 35 seasons. The previous youngest: Justise Winslow, 19 years, 216 days, with MNA regular-season debut on Oct. 28, 2015 vs. Charlotte; Herro, 19 years, 276 days, on Oct. 23, 2019 vs. Memphis; Beasley, 19 years, 294 days, on Oct. 29, 2008 at New York; and Dorell Wright, 19 years, 335 days, Nov. 2, 2005 at Memphis.

NUMBER

5. Heat number issued to Jovic. The number previously has been worn with the Heat by Eric Murdock, Sasha Danilovic, Mark Strickland, Eddie House, Keyon Dooling, Derek Anderson, Marcus Banks, Quentin Richardson, Juwan Howard, Henry Walker, Amar’e Stoudemire, Luke Babbitt, Derrick Jones, Jr., Kyle Guy, and the Heat’s previous first-round pick, Precious Achiuwa.

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Bob Raissman: Draymond Green and the Warriors helping turn the NBA into reality TV

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Bob Raissman: Draymond Green and the Warriors helping turn the NBA into reality TV

For Golden State, capturing the NBA title was almost as important as settling media feuds, social media scores, or whatever you want to call them.

It wasn’t long after the Warriors won the title that Steph Curry was behind a microphone sticking it to (without naming him) ESPN NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins. In August, Perkins predicted the sharpshooter would not win another ring in the next four years.

And along the celebratory parade route, the self-anointed “new media” guru Draymond Green found his chance to get even. He was not as diplomatic as Curry. “If they ever doubted — this is live TV, right — bleep ‘em,” Green said.

More Green: “I warned y’all, so I’m just going to continue to destroy people on Twitter, as I have been, and Instagram stories.”

Such is life in the NBA, where responding to Tweets, making Instagram deposits, amplifies the art of trash talking. Cats like Green, Curry, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and a whole lot of other guys are more media personalities than one-dimensional, hardcore, NBA players.

Green even has a seat waiting for him on TNT’s NBA coverage when he retires. On the surface, this all looks good for the NBA. The off-court drama provides plenty of material — even when school is not in session.

This ”gossipy” dimension should bring more casual fans inside the NBA’s big tent. Do the “reality show” elements of the league, and the way that is covered, have a substantial positive impact on overall viewership of the NBA’s postseason events where the big moo-la-dee is made? Or does it turn “fans” off?

That equation is hard to quantify. For what it’s worth, total average viewership for the 2022 Finals did not measure up to the 15 million average viewership for the pre-pandemic 2019 Finals. The viewership numbers for the 2022 Finals didn’t blow anyone out of the water.

Legions of eyeballs follow the league through highlight clips on the internet and get news (some of it directly from players) on social media. For some, tuning in for a full three-hour tilt is not exactly must-see TV. It’s not necessary to invest a hefty block of time to be entertained or find out what’s happening.

Platforms benefitting the most from the NBA soap opera are debate shows like “First Take” (ESPN), “Undisputed” (FS1), Valley of the Stupid offerings and podcasts that talk basketball.

Gasbags are feasting on the latest chapter in the Nets-Irving-Durant saga, which should be made into a docu-drama. The story can easily be followed through the words, or lack thereof, delivered by Durant.

The same Durant, who unlike the scribes assigned to cover HIS coverage of the story, has a personal interest in the situation.

It’s confusing. Yet very NBAish, right?

BELTRAN’S BOOTH STUMBLES

Carlos Beltran’s struggles at the microphone continued during Game 1of the Astros series.

Beltran, performing before an average of 456,000 viewers Thursday night on YES, made obvious points, delivered in a nearly monotone style. And he often just verbally rubber-stamped the analysis offered by his YES colleague David Cone. Hiring Beltran was a good idea. His reputation in baseball as an excellent communicator, a manager-in-waiting, resulted in high expectations.

And considering how he was scapegoated in the Astros cheating scandal, Beltran deserved a platform that would re-connect him with the game.

From a broadcasting perspective, Beltran looked good on paper. But how long can YES president of production/programming John J. Filippelli, wait for Beltran to meet those expectations before shuffling the deck? After all, not many baseball analysts become overnight sensations. It sometimes takes a hefty amount of game repetitions before there is a break-through.

Still, there could be an interim step for Beltran if he continues to stumble. He could be moved to YES’ Yankees studio. The controlled environment might loosen him up. The atmosphere might help him relax. That’s something he needs to do.

RATING THE REPLACEMENTS

The Yankees, and their WFAN radio partners, offered up two distinctly different styles in the voices they used to sit in John (Pa Pinstripe) Sterling’s seat last week, while Pa was “enjoying” his forced exile.

For those who like audio dynamite, there was Rickie Ricardo, the voice of Bombers Spanish radiocasts. Ricardo is high energy and flamboyant. You will not fall asleep under his watch. While he likes to cut the pie, he also pays attention to little things like actually letting listeners know where the defense is positioned. Fortunately, he didn’t have a HR call for every player. And Sterling’s “the Yankees win!” call was replaced by “What does it smell like folks? It smells like Vic-Tor-Y.”

On the other side of the mountain sat Justin Shackil who, among other things, is the Yankees digital reporter. A good listen, Shackil stuck to nuts and bolts. And he didn’t rent Sterling’s pom-poms while working the Toronto series. Shackil painted an effective, precise word picture. Most importantly, Shackil is likeable.

If we were forced to declare a winner here, it would be Suzyn (Ma Pinstripe) Waldman. She didn’t have to clean up any messes.

NO TAKE TV

With CJ McCollum returning to the “First Take” panel last week, Stephen A. Smith found it necessary to deliver a preamble to the NBA Players Assn. prez’s appearance.

”We know there are things you can’t say,” SAS proclaimed, providing instant cover for McCollum.

Smith was right.

The subject was Kyrie Irving, specifically how his propensity for missing games could expand into a collective bargaining subject at the negotiating table? When McCollum was asked to answer that question, he put on his tap-dancing shoes. He rambled on until Kendrick Perkins finally answered the question for him.

Again, what is the purpose of having, and paying, McCollum for his educated opinions if he’s going to verbally bob-and-weave on the topic of contract negotiations? If the “First Take” crew is going to accept McCollum’s pablum, it might has well put an owner on the show so we can watch two people say nothing about NBA contract negotiations.

AROUND THE DIAL

For reasons known only to him, WFAN’s Gregg Giannotti thought it was a great idea to take issue with SXM’s Christopher (Mad Dog) Russo revealing his First Take salary ($10,000 per appearance for 40 appearances) during an interview with Howard Stern. Giannotti thought ESPN suits would not be thrilled with Russo talking personal finances. We’re sure Doggie is shaking in his boots. … The way SNY’s Gary Cohen was complaining last Saturday, viewers would have thought he was calling Marlins-Mets from a booth in Antarctica. Cohen brought new meaning to the word “chilling.”… Astros-Yankees on YES Thursday night peaked at 696,000 total viewers from 10:15 to 10:30 p.m. Yankees game viewership is up 15% over last season. Guess pinstriped eyeballs have yet to become tired of winning.

* * *

DUDE OF THE WEEK: VANN McELROY

Never forgetting his deep roots in Uvalde, Texas, McElroy, the former Raiders star, reached out to his former team to support the devastated community. That connection to the Raiders paid off. Owner Mark Davis authorized a $1 million donation for a city reeling from an unspeakable tragedy.

DWEEB OF THE WEEK: RON DeSANTIS

When the Florida Governor vetoes legislation over funding of a sports facility for a local area team, the Tampa Bay Rays, based on his interpretation of the team’s socially-minded initiative on gun control, it’s time to call out his brazen conduct. So, there.

DOUBLE TALK

What Eduardo Escobar said: “I think saying, ‘give me a couple of days off’ is essentially giving up.”

What Eduardo Escobar meant to say: “If I’m not hitting, I’m not playing.”

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Sept. 1 trial status hearing scheduled for teen in killing of Chippewa Falls girl, 10

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Iliana (Lily) Peters family photo

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin teenager accused of killing a 10-year-old girl will find out in September whether he will stand trial.

Chippewa County Circuit Judge Benjamin Lane on Friday scheduled a Sept. 1 preliminary hearing for the 14-year-old boy, identified in court documents as C.T.P.-B. That’s the step in the criminal justice process where a judge determines if enough evidence exists to bind a defendant over for trial.

The body of Iliana (Lily) Peters, 10, was found in the woods near her aunt’s house in Chippewa Falls, Wis., on April 25, 2022, the day after her father reported her missing. (Courtesy of the Chippewa Falls Police Department)

The boy was charged in adult court on April 27 with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree sexual assault of a child under age 13 in connection with the killing of Iliana Peters, who was known as Lily. Anyone who is at least 10 years old and is accused of first- or second-degree homicide is considered an adult in Wisconsin’s court system.

Lily disappeared on the night of April 24 as she was riding her bike home from her aunt’s house in Chippewa Falls, according to the criminal complaint. Searchers found her body in the woods the next morning.

The boy told investigators that he was riding his hoverboard alongside Lily on a trail and he intended to sexually assault and kill her, according to the complaint.

He asked Lily to leave the trail and explore the woods with him. According to the complaint, he told investigators that once they were off the trail, he punched her, hit her with a stick and strangled her before he sexually assaulted her body.

The boy’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told Lane on Friday that he was upset that someone posted a video online that included recordings of police communications in the moments Lily’s body was found and that characterized the boy as a “little monster.” Cohen alleged that someone in law enforcement leaked confidential information to the poster and demanded the judge issue a gag order. He didn’t specify against whom, though.

Lane asked Cohen for the link to the video and stated that anyone with access to investigatory materials should keep them confidential and their release could jeopardize the boy’s right to a fair trial.

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