Community forum on Dakota County shelter for single adults

Moving forward
Easing homelessness in Dakota County
Community Forum
Thursday, August 10, 2017, 6:30pm-8:00pm

Shepherd of the Valley, Lutheran Church —Sanctuary
12650 Johnny Cake Ridge Road, Apple Valley

Have you heard the good news? The Dakota County Emergency Shelter Project is moving forward to help those in our community experiencing homelessness. On average, 50 people seeking shelter are turned away nightly in Dakota County. Thanks to host churches and the broader community, last winter 78 people were served in the Emergency Shelter project.

As a result of these efforts, we as a community have heightened the political and public awareness for those experiencing homelessness in Dakota County. The county is now beginning a planning process to provide a framework to create and operate permanent emergency shelter for a long term solution.

Please join us to learn about plans to open a temporary/rotational shelter by November 1, 2017, identify temporary sites to shelter up to 50 people per night in the coming winter and find a stable site for the future. Together we can provide the resources and support needed to serve our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Get a job


The sun will be coming soon and so will the commuters. Do these men from throughout the Twin Cities look prepared to go get a job today? and then there are those who slept in their car, a stairwell, a restaurant, the woods, a garage or stayed up all night and will now sleep in public, much to your dismay should your eyes glance in their direction.

Did you have adequate sleep last night? Will that contribute to how you function today? Without shelter and sleep, we are foolish to think people can have a productive day.

A listening session on the lack of safe shelter will be held Wed, June 7, 4-5:30pm at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis. It will be live streamed on Facebook. Homeless folks will have the floor, to speak not sleep. If you are not homeless, please attend and just listen. #mnshelter

Homeless Camp Snoopy

The Mall of America is not just the largest homeless camp in the Twin Cities; it now hosts Homeless Camp Snoopy. It’s 4am and the Transit Station has reopened. It closes every night from 2am-4am to rid itself of homeless people. They process to the trains and go back to sleep. Photojournalist David Joles and I counted 37 folks and one dog departing on the 2am train. That number is the size of a small shelter. For those who are fiscally conservative, the good news is we’re saving $500,000 a year for every 50 people we shelter each night on Metro Transit and at the Mall of America. You’ll have to calculate the cost to the homeless person.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are more animal shelters than human shelters in the United States. Some may disagree but I think the blind man is as deserving of shelter as his dog.

A listening session on the lack of safe shelter will be held Wed, June 7, 4-5:30pm at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis. It will be live streamed on Facebook. Homeless folks will have the floor, to speak not sleep. If you are not homeless, please attend and just listen. #mnshelter

Treat her like a lady


Shelter is no longer needed for everyone in the Twin Cities. Winter is over. Do you agree? Are you a woman? It’s 3am and I am sickened to have left women so tired they couldn’t walk without assistance alone on Metro Transit: senior women, young women, mentally or chemically impaired women. Last week, our legislature passed $8.75 million dollars in funding to update the Metro Transit station at the Mall of America, in part because the Super Bowl is coming. And what of those breathing fixtures at our Mall? Just under $1 million dollars passed for shelter operations statewide for a year. That will fund 2 shelters in the state. If you are a woman, I appeal to you to look at each of these women and ask what you can do to help.

A listening session on the lack of safe shelter will be held Wed, June 7, 4-5:30pm at St. Olaf Catholic Church in Minneapolis. It will be live streamed on Facebook. Homeless folks will have the floor, to speak not sleep. If you are not homeless, please attend and just listen. #mnshelter

Riding the late night train May 1

Homeless in Minnesota is a collection of stories, images and thoughts on what life is like on the street in and around Minneapolis and St Paul as documented by homeless advocate Monica Nilsson.

Recently she rode the train in Minneapolis from 10:00pm to 7:30am to see what few of us see. Check out her travels:

Standing room only at Dakota County Homeless Forum

Monday night (January 30) Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley hosted a conversation about homelessness in Dakota County with members of a variety of faith communities, homeless advocates, County staff, elected officials and people experiencing homelessness.  It was heartwarming and overwhelming to see 220 people show up. They were there to learn how to be part of the solution. (Get handout from the event.)

With hundreds in the room, it was a 12 year old girl who livestreamed the event via Facebook. It was a first-time experiment so the quality varies – but you can view it below. (You can also track Tweets from the event.)

The night started with Monica Nilsson, a homeless advocate and consultant, giving a brief history of recent crisis shelter operations and homelessness in Dakota County. The shelter opened during a cold snap in mid-December. It closed the day after Christmas when no temporary site was identified and reopened for another three weeks in January at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan. In six weeks it housed 78 people. It opened because Dakota County saw the need, especially in the bitter cold weather, and offered funds for the first 4 nights. It opened because local churches were ready, willing and able to donate space, funding and resources (clothing, food, toiletries) and many volunteers. It opened because there were professional staff that were able to support the needs of the guests. And it remained open because of generous donations made by individuals through a GoFundMe campaign.

Then there was a panel of community educators, each had firsthand experience with homelessness. Sasha, Alex, Nick, Elena, Matt, Josh, James and Rick bravely told their stories. Each was well spoken, some had jobs, even while homeless; each had a unique story but there were themes. The first theme – each had just one or two incidents that put them in a vulnerable position. For one it was illness, another was injury, one was separated from her spouse, another suffered from poor and uninformed choices made by her parents. So many people just one step away from homelessness.

Another recurring theme was the difficulty in escaping homelessness. Being without shelter means carrying everything you own – always. Being without shelter means no ready access to a shower or laundry facilities. Being without shelter means you’re always thinking about a roof, warmth, food and how to get clean-even if you have a job. And people treat you differently when you appear homeless. It becomes more difficult to spend hours at the coffee shop or fast food restaurant –  managers will ask you to leave after 30 minutes of sitting.

There was an open discussion about how it felt to be homeless and what attendees could do to help keep people from being homeless and/or help them find homes. What did guests and former guests want? Human interaction and communication. Opportunity! One panelist said she had the money for an apartment but her applications were continually turned down. She just wanted an opportunity. And then there were more basic needs too – clean clothes, a gas card, Cub card…

The meeting lasted 90 minutes and the time flew. There were several policymakers in the room including, Representative Erin Maye Quade, Senator Jim Carlson, Representative Laurie Halverson, Angie Craig, County Commissioner Liz Workman and other elected officials. People left energized, asking what could they do next. The long term plan for Dakota County is a permanent shelter for men and women age 18+.

Homelessness is everywhere – urban, suburban, rural

In Dakota County there is a coalition of churches, homeless advocates, support organizations and the County that have been working on a permanent shelter in the county to serve the needs of the community.

The cold weather has temporarily shifted our goals. We are in emergency mode – we need to find housing now and work towards a more permanent solution in the future.

Dakota County Crisis and Long-Term Shelter

A temporary cold weather crisis shelter for single adults, youth and families is now open in Dakota County to serve its residents who are without an option for safe shelter.

Rides are available for guests in need. This shelter site will be professionally staffed and supplemented with volunteers. Guests will not have to leave during the day.

Contact me (Monica Nilsson at 612.405.5156) for more information or if you are in need of a ride to the shelter.

We need to immediately foster this crisis situation. Your financial donations will be used in ways very specific to needs that come up, including everything from helping someone buy a pair of winter boots in their exact size to food, pack-n-plays for babies to sleep in and coats, to helping to fund the long-term goal of a permanent shelter.

Please consider a donation.