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

Minneapolis Star Tribune shares story of Dakota County Crisis Shelter

Thanks to the Minneapolis Star Tribune for their story on the Crisis Shelter, recognizing the work of the participating churches, Dakota County, staff and countless volunteers…

A coalition of Dakota County churches had been meeting for over a year to discuss solutions to local homelessness. When the frigid weather prompted county officials to ask the community for immediate help, Roske-Metcalfe said, several churches stepped up.

Church staff members had never run a temporary shelter, but they got to work, calling restaurants for food donations and volunteers to provide supplies. The county donated $3,000 and covered overnight staffing. Beds came from a Minneapolis nonprofit.

And recognizing the need for awareness of the homelessness in Dakota County…

Many people still doubt homelessness exists in suburbs because they don’t see panhandlers on street corners like in the central cities. Suburban homeless often stay out of sight. The county estimated its homeless population at 63 people in January 2016, based on the number of people county workers found living outside, Nilsson said.

While building and staffing another Dakota County shelter is a far-off goal, the temporary shelter’s success was motivating, Roske-Metcalfe said: “It may turn out to be the kick in the ass that we needed.”

Monica Nilsson on homelessness in Dakota County on WCCO radio at 10:10 pm Thursday Dec 29

Update: You can hear the archive on the WCCO site or download podcast here.

Do you have a warm bed to sleep in every night?

Tonight at 10:10 Monica Nilsson will speaking with Caryn Sullivan and Jordana Green on WCCO about Dakota County residents who were housed at churches during December’s bitter cold.

Here’s a tease from the program from an upcoming Pioneer Press column (thanks Caryn Sullivan!) on the topic.

It wasn’t that there was no place at the inn. It was that there was no inn. When December wrought frightful temperatures and meteorologists warned Minnesotans to limit outdoor tie, Dakota County had virtually nothing to offer single people who needed a warm place to sleep.

Tune in to 830 WCCO! Or check out the conversation on their podcast tomorrow.

Dakota County Crisis Shelter – Sleeping in the fields and barns

food-lineThe Shepherds were from a despised class. It doesn’t mean they weren’t devout men, it’s just that most were the hirelings doing menial work and had unsavory reputations. Without much thought, one might hear the word shepherd and think merely of keepers of their flock or the Good Shepherd or those who traveled far to see a special baby. For others, the Shepherds were seen as rough, uncultured and untrustworthy. They stayed outside, isolated from the townspeople for months at a time.

My family, the Gallaghers and Egans and Slaters, settled in Dakota County in 1855 from Ireland. Their land now holds County Road 42. The Irish were once despised, after the African American, before the Somali or Syrian. As time passed, my family too had men traveling far, coming to the door seeking menial work, asking for a bowl of soup or a place to sleep in the barn outside.

Now, I see those men standing in line again at this temporary shelter at Spirit of Life Presbyterian Church in Apple Valley. They are from a despised class. It doesn’t mean they aren’t devout men, it’s just that they are the hirelings of McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Super America and the Dollar Store. They are seen as untrustworthy by some and stay for months at a time isolated. Their shelter will end with us on Monday; we will re-open when we find a more stable site. They will search for a barn, a truck, a storage unit or a bus Monday night in which to sleep.