Press Releases

Task Force recommends a “Dorothy Day Center ReVision” to address increasing homelessness in Saint Paul

Task Force recommendations call for three new buildings and a new approach

Civic, business and government leaders today released recommendations for a “Dorothy Day Center ReVision” to prevent and end homelessness in Saint Paul. After seven months of research and planning, the Dorothy Day Center Task Force, convened by Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, is calling for three innovative, specially designed buildings that will provide dignified shelter, permanent housing and pathways out of poverty. The critical next step for the ReVision project will be to secure state bonding funds this legislative session.

The task force found that remodeling the physical structure of Catholic Charities’ existing Dorothy Day Center would not be enough to address longer-term issues at the deteriorating, overburdened center in downtown Saint Paul or be able to meet the growing and complex needs of Minnesota’s homeless population. The shelter opened more than three decades ago and was created to be a temporary drop-in facility, but the number and needs of the homeless have stretched it beyond capacity, and on too many nights people are turned away.

“We are proud of the legacy of the Dorothy Day Center in Saint Paul, established by business and community leaders to make a visible statement of our values. But there are now more than 250 men and women sleeping on mats in a building designed to accommodate 50 people during the day.” said Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who convened the task force in May 2013. “The center is so crowded that we worry about the health and safety of too many people sharing too small a space. It is time we, as a state, rethink this facility and deliver on our promise to care for those most in need.”

“As the task force considered the best ways to serve the homeless in Saint Paul, we prioritized a long-term solution that brought greater dignity to every person served,” said The Saint Paul Foundation President and CEO Carleen Rhodes, who co-chaired the task force.

The three components of the Dorothy Day Center ReVision project include:

  1. A larger and more dignified shelter and housing development, which would also offer greater stability and privacy to people through innovative “pay-for-stay” housing (based on the success of Higher Ground in Minneapolis);
  2. A Connection Center, which would connect people with services, resources and opportunities to escape poverty and homelessness; and
  3. Permanent affordable housing for the most vulnerable formerly homeless residents in the heart of downtown Saint Paul.

The shelter and housing development and Connection Center would be built on a new site adjacent to the northeast quadrant of downtown Saint Paul, which would provide clients better access to multiple transportation options and additional services. The permanent affordable housing would be located near the current Dorothy Day Center in the core of downtown Saint Paul.

Task Force research and focus groups with Dorothy Day clients reinforce that access to transportation and the ability to easily connect with supportive services are the most critical qualities needed in the design and location of the new shelter, housing and Connection Center.

“Catholic Charities’ mission is to be a voice for the voiceless – an advocate for those who are left behind. We have powerful evidence from our experience at Higher Ground that we can change more lives with the innovative model proposed by the Task Force,” said Tim Marx, CEO of Catholic Charities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, which owns and operates the Dorothy Day Center. “The best solution to homelessness is a permanent home, which is at the core of this ReVision proposal. We would not – and will not – be moving anywhere if we did not think it would significantly improve the lives of those who depend on us for help and hope.”

The estimated cost for the Dorothy Day Center ReVision is $64 million, which will be funded in two phases through a combination of public and private funding. The critical next step is to secure state bonding funds during the 2014 legislative session. Catholic Charities, the City of Saint Paul, Ramsey County and the broader Saint Paul business and philanthropic community will work to secure $22 million in state bonding for the emergency shelter and Connection Center. In addition, the partners will advocate for the maximum amount possible – $100 million – to support housing projects around the state. The partners would apply and compete for $17 million in housing infrastructure bonds to pay for the permanent housing portion of the building modeled after the Higher Ground project.

“When the Dorothy Day Center was created more than thirty years ago, it reflected the needs at the time – a warm place for 50 men to drop in each day for some warmth and a cup of coffee,” said former Saint Paul Mayor George Latimer, who served as mayor when the Dorothy Day Center was conceived and built in 1981. “Today the issues of poverty and homelessness have increased and become more complex, so our solution needs to change. This new vision is what we need today, and I know the community will again step up to make it happen.”

“This plan represents the next step forward for the Saint Paul community in our leadership and commitment to be advocates for those whose voices too often go unheard,” said former Saint Paul Mayor Jim Scheibel, who has long been a vocal advocate on issues of poverty and homelessness.

“The success of Saint Paul and the broader Twin Cities region is defined not only by a thriving business community, green space, transit, arts, and entertainment – it is also defined by what we do to take care of our neighbors who need us most,” said Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kramer, who co-chaired the task force. “This plan is the first step toward lifting our neighbors out of homelessness and treating them with the dignity they deserve.”

Photos of the Dorothy Day Center and its clients are available at www.dorothydaycampaign.org.