Catholic Charities breaks ground on new Dorothy Day

| October 8, 2015 | 0 Comments


Archbishop Hebda, left, and  Father Charles Lachowitzer, right, join other community leaders in a ceremonial groundbreaking for Catholic Charities new Dorothy Day Center Oct. 8. Maria Wiering/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Hebda, left, and Father Charles Lachowitzer, right, join other community leaders in a ceremonial groundbreaking for Catholic Charities new Dorothy Day Center Oct. 8. Maria Wiering/The Catholic Spirit

Hundreds of business and community leaders including Gov. Mark Dayton and St. Paul Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann joined Catholic Charities Chief Executive Officer Tim Marx Oct. 8 to celebrate the groundbreaking of Catholic Charities’ new Dorothy Day Center, Higher Ground St. Paul.

During a 45-minute program in a white tent adjacent to the construction site, Marx called the new facility “an innovative solution” in the effort to end homelessness.

The project includes two buildings: Higher Ground St. Paul, expected to be completed in 2016, and the Opportunity Center and Housing, which Catholic Charities plans to begin in 2017 with completion in 2018.

Funding for the $100 million project involves a private campaign and public sources. More than $23.6 million of the $40 million goal for private funds has been raised, announced Doug Baker, Ecolab chairman and CEO and co-chairman of the new center’s capital campaign. The largest single contribution has been a $5 million gift from the Minneapolis-based Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.

About $25 million of the $60 million goal of public funding has been committed to the project from sources including Ramsey County and the State of Minnesota.

‘No moral justification’ for homelessness

In his remarks, Marx quoted Pope Francis’ words during a Sept. 24 visit to a Catholic Charities-run outreach center in Washington, D.C.: “Why are these brothers and sisters of ours homeless?” Pope Francis asked while speaking to Catholic Charities clients gathered at St. Patrick Church, adjacent to the archdiocesan Catholic Charities offices. “We can find no social or moral justification, not justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing.”

Pope Francis’ statement followed his address to Congress, where earlier that day he held up among exemplar Americans Dorothy Day, the social justice activist for whom the St. Paul homeless shelter is named, “and challenged us all to be champions for the oppressed,” said Marx, Catholic Charities CEO since 2011 and a former state housing commissioner, serving from 2003 to 2008.

Among the community leaders who overturned dirt with a golden shovel prior to the speakers was Archbishop Bernard Hebda, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Accompanying him to the construction site was Father Charles Lachowitzer, the archdiocese’s moderator of the curia and a member of Catholic Charities board of directors. The board also includes a seat for the archbishop, which will remain vacant until a new archbishop is installed.

Father Greg Skrypek, parochial vicar of Assumption, gave an invocation. The downtown St. Paul parish is adjacent to Dorothy Day and played a key role in its 1981 founding as a drop-in day shelter.

As the years went on, the need for food and shelter was overwhelmed its resources, and it became an overnight shelter, which, Catholic Charities said in a statement, “it was never designed or intended to do.” In 2011, it was forced to turn people away for the first time in its history, and people began camping nearby. According to Catholic Charities, more than 6,000 people rely on the Dorothy Day Center’s services annually.

Higher Ground St. Paul is modeled on Higher Ground Shelter, a Catholic Charities homeless shelter near downtown Minneapolis. The St. Paul facility will have five stories with emergency shelter and 193 permanent housing units.

The Opportunity Center and Housing will be located across the street in a six-story building and is designed to be a “one-stop location” for people to access resources for health, employment, housing and wellbeing. The center will include 170 units of permanent housing.

Mary Brainerd, capital campaign co-chair with Baker and Andy Cecere, U.S. Bank vice chairman and chief operating officer, said her background in health care compelled her to be part of the campaign.

“Health is a community attribute, and stable housing, education, good jobs and safe neighborhoods have as a profound impact on health as the health care system itself,” said Brainerd, HealthPartners president and CEO.

She described a Christmas Eve encounter with a woman who had recently secured permanent housing, but who said her greatest support system was the emergency room staff.

“That broke my heart, because we all know the connection between stable housing, the health system, stable lives and jobs,” she said. “That’s the virtuous cycle we’re trying to achieve here with building a new Dorothy Day.”

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