Nursing home makeover boosts efforts to reduce homelessness

Augustana Health Care Center
The former Augustana Health Care Center in the Elliot Park neighborhood of Minneapolis has been converted to the Endeavors Residence by Catholic Charities with local and state government help and private donations. The facility will have 173 single room occupancy and efficiency units to help people who have been homeless.
Tim Nelson for MPR News

Catholic Charities unveiled a new shelter and headquarters near downtown Minneapolis Wednesday, the latest effort by the nonprofit to provide “deeply affordable housing” and move beyond the emergency shelter for which they’ve been known for decades.  

The opening of the 173-unit Endeavors Residence comes three years after the opening of the massive, $100 million Higher Ground campus in St. Paul, which still hosts nearly 300 emergency shelter beds and nearly 350 supportive housing units.

"This is the kind of example of the kind of change that we're going through right now, making sure our clients are thriving in our care and really intentionally focusing on making sure they rely less on charities,” said Michael Goar, CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

Catholic Charities is also consolidating its own administrative operations on the campus, at 14th Street and 11th Avenue, overlooking Elliot Park and just three blocks from U.S. Bank stadium.

Goar helped spearhead the project to turn the Augustana Health Care Center, a former 6-story nursing home, into a next step up for people making their way out of poverty and homelessness.

That means individual rooms for residents, food preparation areas, health care on site, WiFi and cable TV - the same kinds of things that make a home anywhere else. Goar says it’s the continuum of amenities, along with support staff on site, that helps people get their lives back in order and make lasting change. It will replace his agency's smaller Exodus residence downtown.

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Hennepin County funded an in-house, walk-up street level clinic for people who are homeless, with six exam rooms and space for psychiatric care. There's also a recuperative care center, ready to take in people who are being discharged from hospitals but may not have a home, or anyone there, to help them continue to recover.

Torey, who did not want to give his last name, is one of the residents of the Exodus program. Exodus residents actually helped design the new facility. He chatted with visitors as final preparations were underway.

"Well the stability is crucial, and then having staff on side, in case I'm having a tough day or whatnot, I can check in with staff,” Torey said. “It's going to feel more like a community here, instead of institutionalized."

People in a room looking around
Catholic Charities staff showed off a single room occupancy unit that will be part of the new Endeavors Residence in Minneapolis.
Tim Nelson for MPR News

City aid, county funds, state housing infrastructure bonds as well as private donations, helped pay for the $75 million makeover.

The new campus will be home to about as many people as the Francis Drake Hotel that burned down just six blocks away in 2019. It turned hundreds of low-income tenants out onto the streets, a loss noted by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday.

"It's 173 units for people who in many cases desperately need help, who need that next rung on the ladder to pull themselves out of homelessness in some cases in other cases to get that in the realm of stability where they can take the next step in life," Frey said.

The new facility will help Catholic Charities hit a long-sought goal for the region: providing 1,000 beds for some of the lowest income people in the area, not just as shelter, but as permanent homes.