Plan for St. Cloud homeless shelter moves ahead despite business opposition

Resident Lee Henderson poses for a portrait
Resident Lee Henderson poses for a portrait outside his unit at Avivo Village on Dec. 21, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Stephen Maturen for MPR News

A proposal to build a homeless shelter in St. Cloud is moving forward after a contentious public hearing Monday night.

Avivo, a nonprofit that operates a shelter with small, indoor units in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood, wants to build a similar facility in St. Cloud to house 56 people. It would provide supportive services to help them address challenges such as mental health, substance use and finding permanent housing.

“Our specialization is serving individuals who face the most complex barriers to success,” said Kelly Mather, Avivo’s president and CEO. 

After nearly three hours of public testimony and debate, the St. Cloud City Council agreed on a split vote to lease about an acre of city-owned land on St. Cloud’s west side near Costco for the shelter.

The council also allocated about $750,000 in state affordable housing aid to the project. Avivo has received a $7.65 million state grant to build the shelter. 

During Monday’s hearing, a number of business owners said they support the shelter, but not at the proposed location. 

“It’s in the middle of retail establishments with active and constant public traffic that these retailers depend on,” said Jim Schleper with Inventure Real Estate, located nearby.

Donna Roerick, whose chiropractic clinic is near the site, voiced concern about the potential for increased crime, garbage, loitering and other issues near the shelter.

“The truth of the matter is that no one can fully know how the location of this project will impact our neighborhood and neighboring businesses,” she said. 

Other residents testified that St. Cloud needs to do more to address its homelessness problem. The city’s unsheltered population has nearly doubled in the last five years.

Ray Sjogren, a mental health practitioner from St. Joseph, said homelessness, substance use and mental health issues already exist in the community.

“I understand the concerns,” he said. “But it’s time to stop kicking the frickin’ can down the road. I am frustrated. There are people right now who have needs.”

The city council approval will allow the project to proceed to the next stage of design. Avivo needs a lease agreement by the end of March to receive the state funding for the project.