Community forum on Dakota County shelter for single adults

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Moving forward
Easing homelessness in Dakota County
Community Forum
Thursday, August 10, 2017, 6:30pm-8:00pm

Shepherd of the Valley, Lutheran Church —Sanctuary
12650 Johnny Cake Ridge Road, Apple Valley

Have you heard the good news? The Dakota County Emergency Shelter Project is moving forward to help those in our community experiencing homelessness. On average, 50 people seeking shelter are turned away nightly in Dakota County. Thanks to host churches and the broader community, last winter 78 people were served in the Emergency Shelter project.

As a result of these efforts, we as a community have heightened the political and public awareness for those experiencing homelessness in Dakota County. The county is now beginning a planning process to provide a framework to create and operate permanent emergency shelter for a long term solution.

Please join us to learn about plans to open a temporary/rotational shelter by November 1, 2017, identify temporary sites to shelter up to 50 people per night in the coming winter and find a stable site for the future. Together we can provide the resources and support needed to serve our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Hidden Figures – Find them in Dakota County

hidden-figures-1They will be hard to see, the ones you pass as they make a meal from weekend food samples at Dakota County grocery stores. When you stop to fill the tank, you may not notice the one paying $9 for a shower at McStop on 35w and County Road 70 in Lakeville. She uses the car for more than transportation. You may not realize the backpack a young one carries as you pass by him at Town Centre, the outlets in Eagan or Burnsville Mall is not holding his homework rather his home.

The remarkable new film Hidden Figures, a film which every youth and adult would be lucky to see, tells the story of how, using the mathematical calculations of 3 African American women, NASA supported John Glenn in the space race to become the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. In how to plan Glenn’s trip, the women were asked not only to look at the numbers but look around them. What creative solution could advance the cause?

A coalition of churches in Dakota County (Dakota County Adult Shelter on Facebook) is asking you not only to look at the numbers but look around them too. In less than a month, more than 60 people have walked through the shelter’s doors. The group has established the same persistence those women had to advance their mission, a stable site to shelter Dakota County’s homeless men, women and youth age 18+. We don’t know what city will lead in saying yes, as a shelter for this group has never been opened in the county. It will be a first. As President Kennedy said at the time, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.” You are invited to learn what’s hidden in your community at www.homelessindakotacounty.com or by attending a community forum Jan. 30 at Shepherd of the Valley in Eagan, 7-8:30pm.

Yesterday, when the temperature was -9, some found safety and warmth in a simple mat on the floor at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan. When Pastors Kristen Capel and Brandon Newton said yes to a temporary crisis shelter and members Rhonda Bennett Doran, Laura Backman, Jill Blair, John DeSutter and the congregation embraced the shelter day after day, they exemplified Kennedy’s words that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage. Some did not make it to shelter last night or will face new challenges when the shelter closes Friday due to a lack of stable home and funding. www.gofundme.com/dakcountyshelter. But you won’t see the frostbite of their hidden fingers when you pass by them.

What those 3 brilliant, black women accomplished was very difficult. Not even Kennedy knew of their feat when he stated, “We do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.”

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When listening is the first act of service: Jan 30 in Dakota County

listening-1Community forum on homelessness in Dakota County
Monday, January 30, 2016, 7-8:30pm
Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church
12650 Johnny Cake Ridge Rd, Apple Valley, MN 55124
(952) 432-6351

Discussion with individuals who have experienced homelessness in Dakota County

Can you pick out the homeless people in these photos? Maybe the ones with hoodies or sweatshirts or jeans with holes in them? Maybe the ones who look really tired? Hard to see who is struggling in their head? We have a large number of homeless youth so maybe its the young ones?

Though we have yet to complete our first week of a temporary shelter at Easter on the Lake Lutheran Church in Eagan, we have our largest group since moving through 4 churches in a month: 30 women, men and youth tonight (56 total individuals since we began). 26% of our guests are senior citizens. 15% work at McDonalds. Easter’s roof has sheltered one 18 month old, one honorably discharged veteran and a bevy of people providing you good service at Super America, Taco Bell, the Dollar Store and a nearby hotel. The shelter will close January 20. We will hand people a gas card or Metro Transit card as a shelter plan.

It’s people’s nature to want to act or do something concrete, whether they are homeless or not. It’s harder to be still and listen. However, more than passing dollar bills out your car window or handing plates of food over a table, the first thing we ask is that people sit across the table and listen to each other. Now, more than ever, I think we are going to need to do that in order to advance our communities. We ask that volunteers like Becky Haage, Bruce Anderson and the family of Jarrod and Lisa Beach not clean or sort but engage with those who are homeless or work with them in their community. It’s no surprise that listening to each other produces greater understanding.
On January 30, the Dakota County Adult Shelter coalition will hold a community forum. We will ask people to listen to stories about homelessness that don’t include the words Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago or Somalia but Vermillion, East View, County Road 42 and Town Centre. We will discuss how our community is wasting money allowing people to be homeless. The shelter guests have asked if people will be there to listen. Will you be?

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Temporary shelter details

Easter by the Lake in Eagan (4545 Pilot Knob Road- corner of Pilot Knob and Cliff Rd) is hosting a temporary homeless shelter for two weeks that began Friday, January 6 at 5:30pm and closing on Friday, January 20 at 12:00 pm.   The shelter is open to homeless singles and families.

  • The phone number to reach shelter staff at Easter by the Lake is 612-239-8910.  The Dakota County Housing Crisis Line (651)-554-5751 is a resource and will continue to answer calls for persons who are homeless seeking assistance, however a referral by the County is not required.
  • At this time there is no need for items to be donated, such as bedding, etc, or more volunteers thanks to a huge outpouring of support.   We are fortunate there is wonderful volunteer support through Easter Lutheran.   As we work to develop more permanent shelter, there will be more opportunities to help in the future.
  • The biggest need now is financial support to pay for professional shelter staff and technical assistance.    A GoFundMe page set up by Grace Lutheran Church is in operation to accept donations: https://www.gofundme.com/dakcountyshelter

Checks can also be written to Minnesota Housing Partnership, a 501c3 with a note for Dakota Shelter.

Blurred lines and bus lines – Dakota Crisis Shelter Open Again

homeless-312+2=40. I’ll explain that in a moment. A coalition of churches in the suburbs has been opening their doors and letting people in. These visitors aren’t sitting in their church home Sunday morning; it’s 3am and they’re sleeping on the floor of their church home Saturday night.

Dakota County reported waiting lists of women, men, young adults and families in need of emergency shelter. With 4 beds for women in the county, zero specifically for youth age 18+, filled shelters for families in Eagan and men in Hastings, there’d been no room in the Inn. Over 12 days at Christmas, churches opened their doors. Then the doors closed. Before closing, we scraped together gas cards for those sleeping in their vehicles and Metro Transit go to cards so people could return to sleeping on buses or the light rail. Sometimes they’re driven by police to Dorothy Day Center across from the Xcel downtown St. Paul. Dorothy Day counted 170 Dakota County residents sheltered in Ramsey County last year.

Then a couple of days ago, Pastor Kristen Capel at Easter Lutheran Church said yes. Open the doors. Two more weeks. Staff Rhonda Bennett Doran and Matt Brokl went into overdrive. Easter is trying to blur the lines between church and community. Now, after 12 nights at Prince of Peace in Burnsville and Grace Lutheran and Spirit of Life in Apple Valley and 2 nights at Easter, 40 babies, teens, fast food employees and senior citizens have been offered an alternative to being alone on a sidewalk downtown St. Paul. The community is in the church.

Closing and reopening churches is hard, though. It means the message has to be spread again on the street that there’s a place to go. A further challenge of the suburbs is they are often created without bus lines to help blur the lines. The closest bus stop to this church home is almost a mile away.

The long term goal of the faith communities and citizen group known as the Dakota County Adult Shelter Coalition is to find a stable home, hopefully by 2018. www.gofundme.com/dakcountyshelter. Within 24 hours at Easter, we had every supply we needed to operate the shelter. By the 2nd night, I was preparing for the closing by asking donors for bus cards and gas cards again.

Easter believes that God is calling them to be filled with such compassion that people are drawn from impossible situations into a community of hope where lives are changed and love is real.

As one homeless youth prepared her bed, we looked up on the wall. Many would wonder how they would thrive in her impossible situation. Before going to bed, she told volunteer (and Pastor of Mount Calvary in Eagan) Jennifer Rome, “It’s nice to be around uplifting people when you don’t feel very uplifted.”

I hope when morning and Sunday school comes, those sitting and learning about compassion feel the warmth under their feet from the bed that was removed from the floor moments before they got there.homeless-1 homeless-2