Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Learn more about homelessness in our community, the Dorothy Day Center, and our new vision for serving our most vulnerable neighbors.


Q: Who receives services at Dorothy Day Center today?
People coming to the Dorothy Day Center today need much more than a quick meal and a cup of coffee – many have very complex needs. Some are fleeing domestic violence/abuse or have recently been released from hospitals; many are in need of mental health services and job training; and many come to the center for assistance during the day as a way to avoid long- and short-term homelessness. Some of our customers are veterans who have served our country and now find themselves homeless. Last year:

  • More than 300 were young adults ages 18-24
  • About one-fourth were aged 55 or older
  • Women comprised about one-fourth of those sleeping on mats on the floor
Q: How old are people who stay at Dorothy Day?
We see people young and old coming to us for help in times of crisis. Elders continue to represent a growing share of those seeking shelter at Dorothy Day. Last year, elders represented 26% of those served at Dorothy Day Center, or one out of every four people sleeping on the floor.
Q: Does the Dorothy Day Center serve children and families who are homeless?
At Dorothy Day, we serve only adults. Children and families are cared for at our Family Service Center in Maplewood. Many youth in their teens and early twenties do arrive at Dorothy Day Center seeking help, and we have dedicated outreach services to connect them to more appropriate support, including shelter, housing and services available our Hope Street Shelter for Homeless Youth in Minneapolis. This is also why the new vision for the Dorothy Day center will include permanent housing specifically dedicated for young adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Q: What is the volume of services currently offered at Dorothy Day?
  • More than 6,000 individuals served in 2015
  • More than than 75,000 nights of shelter provided
  • Approximately 307,000 meals were served in 2015
  • Dorothy Day Center provides the majority of emergency overnight shelter in Ramsey County, including:
    • 60% of the emergency overnight shelter for single adults in Ramsey County
    • 100% of the emergency overnight shelter for single adult women in Ramsey County
Q: What are the current services that Dorothy Day Center provides during the day?
The increased needs of those who use the center has turned Dorothy Day into a place that is busy at all times of the day, though the daytime and nighttime services vary immensely. The bulk of Dorothy Day clients come to the Center during the day to access a wide range of important supports and services, including:

  • meals
  • housing services
  • job training
  • showers
  • veterans’ services
  • laundry
  • mental health assistance
Q: What happens at the Dorothy Day Center at night?
When the sun goes down, a new group of people enter Dorothy Day. Overnight services now include: (1) emergency overnight shelter for approximately 250 men and women on mats on the floor (2) the only shelter specifically for single women in Ramsey County (42 beds); and (3) a non-medical detox program which provided an estimated $615,000 cost avoidance to Ramsey County in 2014.


Q: What exactly does the new vision include?
The new vision for the Dorothy Day Center is a two-building campus designed to prevent and end homelessness by focusing on two key components which do not exist sufficiently today – more permanent homes and dedicated self-sufficiency services that will create true pathways out of poverty and homelessness.

The first building, Higher Ground Saint Paul, will combine dignified emergency shelter on the first floor, pay-for-stay shelter on the second floor, and 3 floors of permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable, long-term homeless.

The second building will be an Opportunity Center with additional permanent housing on the upper floors. Based on preliminary designs and discussions with potential funding and service partners, it is anticipated that the Opportunity Center will be six floors with approximately 50,000 square feet. The first floor will have a kitchen and meal service, health clinic, showers, lockers and coordinated intake services to assess client needs for housing and other services. The second floor will have space for financial workers, job training and education, a computer lab, a veterans resource hub, volunteers, and specialized staff to assist with housing, outreach and other needs. The top three floors will more permanent housing, including dedicated housing for young adults experiencing or at risk of becoming homeless.

Q: How do you know this new vision/model will be effective in Saint Paul?
This project is based on an innovative and proven model run by Catholic Charities in Minneapolis. Since it opened in 2012, Higher Ground has provided permanent homes for 172 people, some of whom had been homeless for 10 years or more. Nearly 80% of the individuals who have found permanent housing at Higher Ground came from an emergency shelter situation. In addition, another 294 individuals utilizing the Pay-for-Stay shelter at Higher Ground have successfully transitioned to permanent homes in the community. The current Dorothy Day Center campus provides the large majority of emergency shelter and housing in Ramsey County – between 60-80%. We are confident that bringing the proven success of this model to St. Paul will have a significant impact on preventing and ending homelessness.
Q: How will the new vision prevent and end homelessness in the Greater Minneapolis and Saint Paul region?
As of 2015, HUD estimates that there are approximately 5200 people experiencing homelessness in the seven Metro county region. Today, the Dorothy Day Center provides approximately 65% of the available emergency shelter and daytime support services in Ramsey County. The new vision for the Dorothy Day Center will double the amount of permanent housing – the real solution to homelessness – and significantly expand critical support resources and pathways out of poverty that do not exist sufficiently today. Based upon the success of Higher Ground Minneapolis, we are confident that well-designed facilities, new programming, and expanded partnerships at the new Dorothy Day Center will dramatically improve the entire region’s ability to prevent and end homelessness.
Q: Where will this new vision be located?
It will be located at and near the current location in downtown Saint Paul. Catholic Charities will be here serving the most vulnerable among us in the heart of the city, where we have been for over 30 years. Higher Ground Saint Paul is currently under construction adjacent to the current Dorothy Day Center building. The Opportunity Center will be built near the existing Dorothy Day Center site.
Q: What will the new vision cost and how will Catholic Charities sustain it?
With a total project cost of approximately $100 million, we have already secured significant public and private resources to make this vision a reality.

We have launched a $40 million private capital campaign. Community leaders are stepping up to ensure its success! The campaign is being chaired by Doug Baker, Jr., chairman and CEO of Ecolab, Mary Brainerd, CEO and president of HealthPartners and Andy Cecere, president and COO of U.S. Bank.

Today it costs $2.2 million annually to operate the Dorothy Day Center. When both phases of the new vision are complete and fully functioning, we anticipate an approximately $600,000 increase in operating costs, for a total operating cost of $2.8 million dollars. This cost increase will deliver incredible added value, and Catholic Charities has a strategy in place to support and sustain this new vision through operating partnerships, contracts and with continuing support from our generous donors.

Q: Why will it cost $100 million to replace the Dorothy Day Center?
Keep in mind, we’re not just “replacing” Dorothy Day. With your help, we’re building a community asset to serve distinctly different purposes:

  • providing emergency shelter and affordable housing (Higher Ground Saint Paul),
  • offering access to services such as job training, housing opportunities, basic health care and benefits (Saint Paul Opportunity Center), and
  • providing affordable efficiency apartments for low-income adults (located above the Saint Paul Opportunity Center).

Together, these new facilities will provide care for more than 1,000 people each day.

Q: Which other organizations and partners will provide services at the new Dorothy Day Center?
The success of the new vision for the Dorothy Day Center will depend on sustaining and growing partnerships with a wide range of other service providers. Ramsey County is one important partner already playing a key role as we plan services and programs that will be available at the Saint Paul Opportunity Center.

Current partners at the Dorothy Day Center offering services and programming include: South Metro Human Services, Healthcare for the Homeless, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, Dept. of Employment & Economic Development, Goodwill/Easter Seals, St. Catherine’s University, Ramsey County Financial Workers, Street Works, People Inc., Listening House, Salvation Army, Safe Zone/Face to Face, and Ramsey County Mental Health/Chemical Health Services.

Q: What is supportive housing?
Supportive housing is a combination of housing and services that provide a cost-effective way to help people live more stable, productive lives. It can help people who face complex challenges,and it is often paired with social services like job training, to help people get back on their feet.
Q: What is Pay-for-Stay shelter?
Pay-for-Stay shelter is an innovative model that allows guests to pay a nominal nightly fee that is deposited into a personal savings account. Residents can use that account to pay rent or deposit on stable housing. More than 65% of the pay-for-stay residents at Higher Ground Minneapolis are employed. The low-cost pay-for-stay housing option helps them save money towards a permanent home and provides them with a locker where they can to store their belongings while they work.


Q: I’m concerned this project will just attract more people experiencing homelessness to downtown Saint Paul.
Unfortunately, those experiencing homelessness are already downtown in greater numbers than can be served at the Dorothy Day Center. This project will provide more of those individuals with a dignified, safe environment and access to services (such as job training), transitional pay-for-stay housing, and permanent housing opportunities, hopefully ending their experience with homelessness permanently.

There are two important things you can do to help ensure the new vision for the Dorothy Day Center is a success for our entire community. First, you can help us make it truly transformational. We have opportunities to invest in programming, building elements and external design features that will change lives and inspire all of us for generations to come. We have just one opportunity to get this right.

We also need help from the entire community to support a comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness. No single governmental unit, organization or neighborhood can do it alone.

Q: Will you continue to provide services while the new buildings are being constructed?
There will be no disruption in services to those most in need during construction of the new vision for the Dorothy Day Center. When Higher Ground Saint Paul opens, all emergency overnight shelter will move into dignified shelter space in that building – no more mats on the ground at the old Dorothy Day Center. In addition, many of the individuals currently living in permanent housing units at Mary Hall will move to Higher Ground Saint Paul. Mary Hall will then be renovated so that it can become the hub of daytime services while Phase 2 is being constructed – health care, meals and all other daytime services currently offered at the Dorothy Day Center will be provided at Mary Hall during this time.
Q: What is the cost associated with services provided during the transition?
It is critical that we continue to provide our most vulnerable neighbors with shelter, meals and services –without interruption – throughout construction of the new vision. To make this possible, we are renovating the current Mary Hall building so that it may accommodate, on a short-term basis, many of the daytime services currently provided in the Dorothy Day Center. In addition to this renovation, when it opens in late 2016, Higher Ground Saint Paul will temporarily be open to clients 24 hours a day to create additional service capacity. Finally, Catholic Charities will be investing in off-site warehouse space to house the food and supplies currently stored at the Dorothy Day warehouse attached to the old building. The anticipated cost of these investments to ensure continuation of services without interruption is estimated at approximately $3.4 million. Catholic Charities will continue to rely on critical contributions from individuals and organizations to fund these critical investments.
Q: Are the names of the buildings already decided? If not, how will they be decided?
No, we have not made final decisions on new names for the campus, individual buildings or service areas within the buildings. We know that the Dorothy Day name has special history and meaning, so we absolutely anticipate it will remain an important part of the naming/branding for the campus. We will be working closely with community partners, clients, staff and others to identify official naming/branding opportunities at the new Dorothy Day Center campus.
Q: What will happen to Mary Hall and the existing Dorothy Day Center once the new vision is complete?
When the new Dorothy Day Center campus is complete, the current Mary Hall building will be available for re-use and/or redevelopment. The existing Dorothy Day Center will be rebuilt as the Saint Paul Opportunity Center.


Q: What are the next steps for the project?
Higher Ground Saint Paul – Construction is in full swing, with an anticipated opening date in late 2016. View the construction progress

Opportunity Center – Simultaneously, we are now in full planning mode on the Opportunity Center. This planning includes working with community partners to design the critical services that will be provided at the Opportunity Center and finalizing important internal and external design considerations. We are working toward a groundbreaking in 2017 and opening in 2018.

Q: How are you engaging community members in the design and planning of this project?
We are working with many individuals and groups as we continue to plan and design the new vision for the Dorothy Day Center—city and county officials, local business owners, churches, neighborhood groups, and clients of the Dorothy Day Center. This is a project that will have impact and consequence not only for those most vulnerable, but for the entire Greater MSP region for many decades to come.
Q: How are you engaging Dorothy Day Center clients in the planning/design process?
We have had listening sessions with clients to hear their concerns and to learn their suggestions regarding the program design. They have provided valuable and specific guidance every step of the way as we advance a new vision for the Dorothy Day Center. Dorothy Day Center staff work hard to provide important updates and to ensure clients questions and concerns are addressed.
Q: I would like a presentation to my work, church or neighborhood organization so that we can understand and offer feedback on the new vision for the Dorothy Day Center.
Catholic Charities is happy to work with you to set up a presentation or discussion session so that you can provide input and learn more about the new vision. Contact Julia Jenson at or 612-204-8367.


Q: If I make a donation, does the Archdiocese, or any other organization, have access to my money?
No. Catholic Charities is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, registered in the State of Minnesota. All gifts to Catholic Charities are used solely for the programs and services impacting the thousands of people we serve each year. Because the Dorothy Day Center is a program of Catholic Charities, contributions cannot be directed to the Archdiocese or any other organization or used for any other purpose. Gifts are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law
Q: How does Catholic Charities fund its work?
In 2014, more than 17,000 individual donors and hundreds of organizations and churches funded nearly 35% of our work in the community. This includes grants from the United Way (4%) and a gift from the annual Catholic Services Appeal (3%). Public contracts, fees for services and investment revenue fund the remainder of our operations. Our full financial reports are conveniently posted online at
Q: Does Catholic Charities only serve Catholics?
No, Catholic Charities and the Dorothy Day Center serve everyone, regardless of faith, background or circumstance. We never ask if someone is Catholic…only if they are hungry or in need.
Q: How much money goes to administrative and fundraising costs at Catholic Charities?
In 2014, Catholic Charities overall spending on administration and fundraising was approximately 18%, well below the Charities Review Council’s strict accountability standards recommended maximum of 30%.
Q: Does Catholic Charities receive government funds on an annual basis?
Yes, Catholic Charities partners with several government agencies, including Hennepin and Ramsey counties, to carry out specific services such as providing intake, evaluation, shelter and other services for abused and neglected children at St. Joseph’s Home for Children. In 2014, public dollars accounted for 39% of Catholic Charities revenue.


Q: What part does mental illness play in homelessness?
A high percentage of long-term homeless people are challenged with mental illness, chemical dependency and other issues. Catholic Charities staff often have to work with someone suffering from mental illness for months or even years to build trust levels and begin actually moving the person forward with medical intervention and housing assistance. Higher Ground in Minneapolis has designated housing for people with mental illness and the new vision for the Dorothy Day Center will also provide housing for this vulnerable population.
Q: How do working people become homeless?
Many homeless people are working. But working full time at minimum wage (at $7.25 per hour) adds up to $15,080 annually before taxes and social security deductions… not even $1,300 per month. The monthly average rent of an affordable apartment in the Greater MSP region is $745 (and vacancies are scarce). Once you add in transportation, food and the very basic necessities, there is nothing left to save for unforeseen needs… needs such as an injury that sends you to the emergency room, a major car repair that impacts your ability to get to work, or the high cost of heat during a brutal winter. If an emergency comes up, those living paycheck to paycheck can quickly fall into crisis and eventually, homelessness.