A few wheelchairs and bedpans were piled up in the hallway Monday morning, and there were still some oxygen bottles lined up on the second floor.
But the new residents at 4140 Cheatham Ave. in Minneapolis — about a mile north of Minnehaha Falls — will need a decidedly different kind of assistance than the previous occupants.
The 25-room Hope Street facility is opening Wednesday as the largest emergency shelter for homeless youths in Minnesota, replacing beds at the century-old St. Joseph’s Home campus, located about three miles away. Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis recently bought the former Hiawatha Suites Senior Living Community to house up to 30 young people, as well as case managers, counselors and other staff.
“On any given night, there are 5,000 youth experiencing homelessness in the state of Minnesota,” said Keith Kozerski, chief program officer for Catholic Charities. The nonprofit's programs served about 360 of them, from 18 to 24 years old, last year.
Kozerski said they consider youths to be young people up to age 25; he said about 80 percent of the unhoused youths served by Catholic Charities are people of color; about a quarter are LGBTQ+.
“We’re serving youth who are kind of at that crux, or crossroads in life, where without proper intervention, they could probably go down that path of chronic, long-term homelessness,” he said.
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The new location of the long-running Hope Street shelter is by appointment only, typically taking reservations through the Youth Services Network. It will be staffed 24 hours a day, and offer most residents their own room with a bed, a desk, a closet and a restroom.
“This building is exactly what you hear people talk about nationally, in serving those experiencing homelessness. The private bedrooms, the beautiful furnishings, the three-year-old building. It says to the people that we serve, we welcome you with open arms, and we want to serve you, and we want to serve you well,” Kozerski said.
The shelter will offer heat-and-serve meal options, mental health counseling, recreation areas and support services to help occupants get permanent housing. From past experience, Kozerski said, they know most residents stay about 40 days, and he said the vast majority manage to move up to their own housing and stay in it.
Catholic Charities bought the new building with $5 million in American Rescue Plan funding from the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County. A private donor added another $1 million. Volunteers and construction workers started converting it to a shelter Saturday, with electrical, security and other upgrades taking place over the past few days.
Minneapolis officials approved the conditional use permit allowing the shelter earlier this year — although at least one neighbor told the city that she feared it would bring more crime and disruption to the neighborhood. Others wrote in support of the change.
Catholic Charities says the building's front door will be locked and staffed and will not take walk-ins, which Kozerski said means there shouldn’t be people waiting outside to get in. It is expected to be fully occupied by Wednesday night.