St. Louis County will have a fund for people with substance abuse and/or mental illnesses who have emergency housing needs, thanks to a grant from the UCare Foundation grants.

“Our hope is to make it accessible and a low barrier, so people aren’t having to jump through a lot of hoops,” said Laura Birnbaum, housing and homelessness programs supervisor for south St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services.

The $50,000 grant is among more than $2 million in awards the foundation announced Tuesday with an overarching goal of improving community health across Minnesota.

Other grants announced in the region:

  • Just under $57,000 for a Carlton County Public Health and Human Services “Thriving Minds and Healthy Aging” initiative for people living with dementia and their caregivers.

  • More than $17,000 for a postpartum depression support group in Duluth, also under St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services.

The emergency housing fund is so new that Birnbaum still is awaiting a contract to be finalized and hadn’t contacted all of the agencies that will be involved as of Tuesday, she said. But once in place, it will be available for use in a number of different ways to bridge gaps for people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless, Birnbaum said.

That might mean covering a security deposit, or one month’s rent, or housing application fees or moving costs.

“There’s so many barriers that people run into to be able to get back on their feet,” Birnbaum said. “($50,000) seems like a lot, but it’ll probably go pretty quickly because we have so many people in need right now.”

The program is described as a housing and well-being fund for homeless or at-risk individuals, so it could be used to help pay for mental and behavioral health services.

“We were pretty excited when we got fully funded,” Birnbaum said. “It’ll definitely make a huge difference for people.”