At Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Center, 250 homeless women and men slept overnight in cramped quarters on thin mats on a concrete floor, just inches apart. Built over 30 years ago as only a day shelter for roughly 50 people, it was struggling to serve 6,000 people a year, 24/7/365.
Our bold new vision has two parts. Higher Ground Saint Paul opened in January 2017 and it is already transforming lives. Our focus is now on completing Phase II of this integrated project – the Saint Paul Opportunity Center and Dorothy Day Residence – which includes critical services such as job training, a community clinic, a Veterans Resource Hub and additional, much needed housing.
There are many types of people coming from across Minnesota who seek help at what will be called Dorothy Day Place: the elderly and young adults, working poor and the mentally ill unable to work, those who are from the Twin Cities and other regions of the state. We serve those who are experiencing brief stints of homelessness, and those for whom homelessness has become a longer-term condition.
For these individuals, job losses, illnesses, injuries, tragic personal losses and addictions often play a part in their homelessness. With the right help their challenges are solvable!
These are the individuals who need Higher Ground Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Opportunity Center because of deep and persistent challenges that have caused them to be homeless, some for many years. These are often men and women who suffer from debilitating mental or physical illness or disabilities so significant they may never be able to hold a job or pull themselves out of poverty. With your help, their lives can be safer, more stable and dignified, avoiding expensive health care and other costs.
On the Brink of Homelessness
There is yet another group of people who need help – those who are not homeless. Many of those we serve during the day actually have a home, but are suffering from deep poverty and are on the brink of becoming homeless. They seek assistance for meals and others services in order to maintain their housing. Without our help and completion of the Saint Paul Opportunity Center, they may lose their home and end up sleeping in the emergency shelter.
The Tipping Point
In 2011, for the first time in its history, Catholic Charities was forced to turn people away from the Dorothy Day Center, leading people to camp in the surrounding area—it was a breaking point that launched a community response. In 2012, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman convened a diverse task force of community leaders to assess the urgent situation at the Dorothy Day Center, and in 2013 the task force issued its recommendation for an innovative new vision to prevent and end homelessness for those most in need in our community.
The faces of Dorothy Day Center: Aaron’s story
Aaron is a 38-year-old Navy veteran who was homeless and desperately needed help battling depression. Catholic Charities’ staff at the Dorothy Day Center helped Aaron find a place of his own where he got the help he needed to manage his mental health, sought out educational opportunities and is preparing to live independently.