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Catholic Charities Brings People to “Higher Ground”

Five-story building facing street with sidewalk, trees, and light post in front.Higher Ground Saint Paul offers emergency shelter, permanent housing, and services to individuals experiencing homelessness in the Twin Cities area. Credit: Brandon Stengel, www.farmkidstudios.com

The Dorothy Day Center, opened in 1981 in St. Paul, Minnesota, was originally intended to “provide daytime services and respite to the vulnerable.” Soon, however, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which operated the center, realized that many of the center’s clients were experiencing homelessness. According to Tim Marx, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Dorothy Day Center had become so overburdened by 2011 that it had to start turning people away. Catholic Charities and public officials in St. Paul addressed this unmet need by creating Dorothy Day Place — a homeless shelter, affordable housing complex, and multiresource center for those experiencing housing insecurity.

Property Characteristics

The first phase of Dorothy Day Place, a homeless shelter known as Higher Ground St. Paul, was completed in 2017 and has five floors and a capacity of 356. The first floor houses a communal shelter with bunk beds for men and women as well as a permanent supportive housing wing for women living with addiction. The second floor features “Pay-For-Stay,” one of the center’s new initiatives. Employed men who are experiencing homelessness can pay $7 nightly or $42 weekly for access to one of 48 “Pay-For-Stay” beds, showers, and lockers. Up to $500 of a tenant’s rent can be applied to a security deposit for a more permanent housing solution. The second floor is more private and offers laundry facilities, computers, and community areas.

The third, fourth, and fifth floors of the building contain 193 efficiency apartments with standard bedroom furnishings and kitchenettes, and each floor offers larger community kitchens, restrooms, and gathering areas. Residents on these floors are gradually transitioning to independent living and are working with caseworkers to determine their next steps.

The second phase of Dorothy Day Place includes the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Saint Paul Opportunity Center and the Dorothy Day Residence, which opened in fall 2019. Dorothy Day Residence is a 177-unit affordable housing complex, and the adjoining Opportunity Center is a “one-stop” building for social services for underserved populations in the Twin Cities, offering meals, providing medical care, and giving legal aid.

Bedroom with bed and linens, corner chair, table with two chairs, slate floor, and window.A standard unit at Dorothy Day Residence, which aims to transition individuals experiencing homelessness to more permanent housing. Credit: Brandon Stengel, www.farmkidstudios.com

Together, the Dorothy Day Residence and the Opportunity Center occupy approximately 170,000 square feet, and the entire two-building campus — which includes Higher Ground St. Paul across the street — totals 281,000 square feet. The buildings’ emergency shelter and permanent housing options can accommodate 726 people each night.

Services Offered

The Dorothy Day Residence includes 40 units for at-risk populations such as veterans, youth ages 18 to 24, and individuals living with substance abuse issues. The Opportunity Center offers an array of social services through partnerships with Twin Cities public agencies and nonprofits. Three regional hospitals — United Hospital, Regions Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Hospital — created and funded a program that allows people experiencing homelessness and who have had recent medical procedures to stay and receive care. Dorothy Day Place also has partnerships with Ramsey County, Minnesota Community Care (a health clinic), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration, the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (federal and local veterans’ services), People Incorporated (mental health counseling), Avivo (employment help), Mile in My Shoes (physical education), the University of Minnesota (case management), and Open Access Connections (technology assistance). Visitors are also able to sign up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other benefits, receive legal aid, and get housing counseling, Marx emphasizes.

Marx says that Catholic Charities has also used Dorothy Day Place as “a launching pad for new ideas.” Some new programs being tested at the center include the aforementioned "Pay-For-Stay" initiative. Other new programs include the Re-directing Users of Shelter to Housing (RUSH) project, Outside In, Safe Space, and Women’s LSA (late-stage alcoholic). RUSH is an effort among Ramsey County nonprofit and civic agencies to secure housing for frequent users of shelters. Outside In expands outreach to unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness. Safe Space, which began as a temporary Winter Safe Space, is now operated year-round by Ramsey County. Based in a Ramsey County facility about a mile from Dorothy Day Place, Safe Space allows people experiencing homelessness and who are sleeping in open-air areas to have an emergency overnight option for shelter. The LSA program provides housing and supports for 12 women living with severe alcohol and other substance abuse disorders — the first program of its kind in Ramsey County.

Development and Financing

The development of Dorothy Day Place was a years-long process. In 2012, Chris Coleman, then the mayor of St. Paul, convened a task force to explore options for the future of the Dorothy Day Center. In 2013, the task force recommended replacing the center with a new facility. By building coalitions with public officials, Catholic Charities was able to secure $84 million from state and municipal agencies such as the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Metropolitan Council, Ramsey County, and the city of St. Paul, Marx says. Sixteen prominent business leaders established the Dorothy Day Capital Campaign and raised an additional $40 million in private donations from more than 500 philanthropic organizations and individuals, the two largest donors being the Minneapolis-based Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation with a $5 million donation and the Target Corporation with a $2 million donation. At a final cost of $114 million, the two-building campus represents the largest public-private partnership in housing and social services in Minnesota state history. Minnesota-based companies were integral to the development process. Dominium, one of the largest affordable housing developers in the United States, handled the development, planning, and construction details pro bono — a first for the company. Cermak Rhoades Architects created the architectural plan, and Watson-Forsberg was the general contractor.

Catholic Charities has received industry and local recognition for the project. In 2019, the Dorothy Day Place Capital Campaign Committee won the 2019 Outstanding Contribution to Philanthropy award from the Minnesota chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for its fundraising work, says Marx. Finance & Commerce, a business newspaper in Minnesota, named the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Saint Paul Opportunity Center and Dorothy Day Residence a Top Project of 2019 for “the degree of difficulty, creativity in design, innovative construction techniques, cooperation among contractors and management, and sustainability efforts.” Catholic Charities hopes to build on this success to assist more Twin Cities residents in need. In December 2019, Catholic Charities purchased the former Augustana Health Center in Minneapolis as part of its plan to replace its older Exodus housing facility. The estimated cost for the new facility, dubbed “Exodus 2.0,” is $65 million, with support coming from public and private funding. Dominium will once again work with Catholic Charities. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide permanent housing for 203 people from the most vulnerable populations in the city, Marx says.

Treating People With “Dignity and Transitioning Them to Independence

Marx says Catholic Charities hopes Dorothy Day Place can illustrate how to treat people experiencing homelessness with dignity. By moving people to “higher ground,” as the building’s name suggests, from emergency shelter to the transitional Pay-For-Stay arrangement to independent apartment living, Catholic Charities is showing how homelessness can be addressed in a comprehensive, compassionate way.

Source:

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 2018. “About the Project.” Accessed 3 June 2020; Phone interview with Tim Marx, CEO Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 20 May 2020.

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Source:

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. n.d. “Dorothy Day Place.” Accessed 23 May 2020; Friends of Dorothy Day. n.d. “Higher Ground and Pay-For-Stay.” Accessed 26 May 2020. ×

Source:

Friends of Dorothy Day. n.d. “Higher Ground and Pay-For-Stay.” Accessed 26 May 2020. ×

Source:

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. n.d. “Dorothy Day Place.” Accessed 23 May 2020; Phone interview with Tim Marx, CEO Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 20 May 2020; Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. n.d. “Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Saint Paul Opportunity Center.” Accessed 28 May 2020.

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Source:

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 2019. “Catholic Charities Opens Dorothy Day Place,” press release, 23 October. Accessed 23 May 2020.

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Source:

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. n.d. “Dorothy Day Place.” Accessed 23 May 2020; Phone interview with Tim Marx, CEO Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 20 May 2020.

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Source:

Friends of Dorothy Day. n.d. “Higher Ground and Pay-For-Stay.” Accessed 26 May 2020; Ramsey County. 2019. “Safe Space Opens as a Year-Round Emergency Shelter on Nov. 12,” news, 7 November. Accessed 4 June 2020; Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. n.d. “Housing First.” Accessed 2 June 2020; Documents provided by Therese Gales, media relations manager for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Source:

City of Saint Paul. n.d. “Statement of Dorothy Day ReVision.” Accessed 23 May 2020; Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 2019. “Catholic Charities Opens Dorothy Day Place,” press release, 23 October. Accessed 23 May 2020; Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. n.d. “Dorothy Day Center: A Capital Campaign for Catholic Charities.” Accessed 23 May 2020; Phone interview with Tim Marx, CEO Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 20 May 2020.

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Source:

Editorial Board. 2019. “More Help for Those Without Homes.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9 December; Phone interview with Tim Marx, CEO Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 20 May 2020; Finance & Commerce. 2020. “Finance & Commerce announces Top Projects of 2019 Honorees.” Finance & Commerce, 5 May 2020.

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Source:

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. n.d. “Dorothy Day Place.” Accessed 23 May 2020; Phone interview with Tim Marx, CEO Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 20 May 2020.

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