New transitional shelter serving six counties
The face of homelessness is different from what one might expect.
“Forty-six percent of all homeless people have full-time jobs,” Gene Biever, a co-chairperson on the board of the A Place For You Transitional Shelter, said at the Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting March 6.
The shelter, located in Pine City, was a community project that started with Biever’s aid.
Allina donated the building—an old clinic—but the cost to remodel it was about $167,000.
Biever said community members stepped up and found contractors to do most of that work for free.
The final cost of the remodel was $70,000.
The shelter has been operating four months.
A Place For You serves homeless people in Pine, Kanabec, Chisago, Carlton, Isanti and Mille Lacs counties.
Counties and other organizations sponsor rooms at the shelter to help offset some of the operating costs.
Currently, five counties are giving the shelter $1,000 per month to sponsor a room apiece.
“There are shelters in Duluth, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, but in the (six)-county area, there was nothing,” Biever said.
Biever said homelessness is a problem people sometimes don’t equate with the rural and semi-rural counties A Place For You serves, but it affects more people than one might think.
He said A Place For You conducted a one-day count of homeless people in its service area and found 215 people struggling with the situation, 75 of whom were living outside.
He explained someone who is living in a structure that does not have heat or running water is considered homeless.
“It doesn’t sound like a huge group of people, but the numbers are enormous when you look at how many people are employed full time,” Commissioner Lora Walker said.
Living at the shelter
Biever said the shelter is not intended to be a long-term solution to homelessness for people who find refuge there.
They can stay up to 90 days, and they’re expected to work with caseworkers and volunteers to help turn their lives around.
Biever explained the shelter offers a variety of services to help people overcome homelessness, and residents at the shelter are even expected to cook their own food for breakfast and lunch.
Local grocery stores and churches donate the food residents use for cooking. Area restaurants provide free evening meals.
Biever also noted people staying at the shelter have to be referred from an organization or agency—such as churches or their county of residence— to be accepted at the shelter; people cannot simply “walk in.”
When being considered for temporary residence at A Place For You, applicants go through three background checks, and a drug and alcohol test.
Twice a day, residents are asked to perform a preliminary breath test alcohol assessment.
“We want to make sure they’re responsible men and women,” Biever said.
Nancy Dahlin, director of Chisago County Health and Human Services,” lauded A Place For You for the work it has been doing in Chisago County and surrounding counties.
During the first four months of operation, the shelter has served 21 people.
“It’s really nothing short of remarkable that this group from the community came together and put this together,” she said. “This wasn’t a situation where there were people like myself working on this. This was a grassroots product.”