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home : news : news May 24, 2016

3/14/2013 11:52:00 AM
Transitional shelter now open

by DENISE MARTIN A transitional homeless shelter opened just a few months ago in Pine City, serving citizens from Chisago, Pine, Kanabec, Isanti, and Mille Lacs counties. Transitional, by definition, means it is temporary and shelter director Deacon Eugene Biever said clients stay for 90 days. They need to be working and/or attending school to get job training. “They have to be working on a plan,” as Biever put it.

Clients are referred to the facility through veterans’ organizations, social workers, churches and similar contacts. Biever said this is meant to bridge the gap for people who, “many arrive with just their coat and shoes.” They are single men and women. Families with children can find services through New Pathways in Cambridge. Biever said homelessness in non-urban areas can be tough to spot. People will remain in their house without heat or running water with no money coming in, and you just don’t see them, but they are homeless, Biever said. Chisago County’s HHS Director Nancy Dahlin commented about this facility, that, “... it is nothing short of remarkable because it was a grassroots, from the ground-up” community created project.

She said it’s the only shelter like it from Duluth to the Twin Cities and there is a need for what it provides. In four months there have been 47 applications. There’s space for just 10 at the shelter at a time. Clients are expected to abide by a shelter curfew and they blow PBT breath tests twice a day. In return they’ll get a place to stay, food provided and direction and guidance from at least 27 regular volunteers that have come forward. Biever said this connection to people within the surrounding community is really key to progress for the shelter clients. “Volunteers come, talk with residents, treat them equally and it makes them feel like they are part of a community again,” he said. The facility is inside a former clinic, donated by Allina, in Pine City, 220 Third Avenue SE. Biever said the community raised money to help remodel the building into a shelter. and lots of donated materials and labor.

The doctor’s cubicles actually were a good size for the bedrooms, he added. Women (5) are housed on one side of the shelter, men (5) on the other with kitchen, bathrooms and mechanicals in the central part. “We have nine there now,” Biever reports. There’s been a total of 21 people through the program since it opened in October 2012 and quite a few have had success getting back-on-track. Pine Technical College and a library are within walking distance. Biever said one man worked a part time job, attended school and when he left the shelter he had obtained a welding certificate and had a job waiting in the cities. The idea for this type of facility came to Biever while working with programs for the homeless and he realized there’s programs for youth, programs for elderly, programs for families with children, but 18 year-olds and up who don’t fit into a category didn’t have much to fall back on.

The facility is supported by civic groups, churches, individual donations. Groups or clubs can “adopt a room.” This allows a family, an organization or business, etc. to register to provide furnishings, linens, all the basic items needed to supply one room. If you are interested in adopting a room, possibly making a cash contribution, signing up to provide a meal as part of the “meal train” or you have an item the shelter could use, call 1-320-223-9065 or send an e mail to principalbiever@stmaryspinecity.org.

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