Homeless in Dakota County (2017)

At our 2016 Christmas Eve services, we asked your help to support an effort to fund a shelter for homeless people in Dakota County. Your response was incredible. As of January 19, 2017, $8,784.53 has been raised and is growing! Thank you! Here is a brief summary of this project so far.

The Need for Shelter

The Dakota County homeless population is estimated to be about 63 people. In prior years, many homeless have found shelter in Ramsey and Hennepin County facilities which are now at capacity. Dakota Woodlands operates a shelter for families in Eagan and one for men in Hastings, but there are no county shelters for youth and limited resources for single women. 

Action So Far

A coalition of faith communities in Dakota County began meeting in late 2015, in conversation with Dakota County Community Services, with the goal of opening an emergency shelter for adults from age 18 to senior citizens who have no other option for sleeping accommodation.

A temporary shelter was operated December 15-26 and served about 3 dozen people during subzero temperatures. Three churches hosted in a 4-day rotation: Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, and Spirit of Life in Apple Valley. The county gave $3,000 and provided overnight staffing. Beds were donated by a Minneapolis nonprofit.

Thanks to donations raised by many community members, including SOTV, a two-week temporary shelter for singles and families opened on January 6, hosted by Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan.

Here are some noteworthy facts:

  • A total of 67 unduplicated individuals in 21 nights of operation have received shelter at Grace, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Life and Easter Lutheran Churches (as of Jan. 16, 2017).
  • Guests are from Burnsville, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Eagan, South St. Paul, Inver Grove Heights and Vermillion.
  • Our youngest guests were under age 1. Our oldest guest is 71 (26% of guests are senior citizens).
  • 30% of guests live in vehicles.
  • The community is best at sheltering children, however families are the majority of our turn aways due to a lack of space.
  • “Cost of Homelessness”: 1 night in the hospital: $2800, 1 night in jail = $363, 1 night in detox = $350. 1 night in a shelter= $35 adult or $28 child.
  • $1300; the estimated cost to run an emergency shelter 24 hours/day.

What’s Next?

Listening is the first act of service. All are invited to join us for a Panel Discussion at SOTV, Monday, January 30 at 7:00 pm. We will hear directly from individuals who have experienced homelessness in Dakota County. We can only truly understand how to take action after we have first listened to the challenges that people are facing firsthand. Learn more.

The coalition is turning its attention to a permanent shelter solution. The biggest challenge is financial support to pay for professional shelter staff and technical assistance.  According to Monica Nilsson, who has been coordinating the shelter effort, it costs about $8,000 to operate a 24 hour shelter for about a week. Monica is posting regular updates through her blog.

Donations can continue to be given through SOTV. Checks can be made out to SOTV with MN Housing Partnership in the memo line. If giving online, include MN Housing Partnership in the “Misc. Benev.” line.

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