Tim Marx, an attorney, former Minnesota housing commissioner and city attorney of St. Paul, is CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Marx, 61, grew up in Rochester, and for several years until his appointment at Catholic Charities, was executive director for New York City Common Ground, a nonprofit housing, community development and social services agency.
In 2011, he noted that poverty was increasing, even amid the uneven recovery following the 2008-2009 Great Recession: “It’s very important that we all step up to serve those most in need with their basic needs, but also begin the process of not just managing poverty but looking at strategies to bring people out of poverty.”
Marx and the Catholic Charities board planned an upgrade of antiquated facilities in downtown St. Paul that has culminated in the two-stage Dorothy Day Place development project that he believes will deliver at least some homeless folks to higher ground.
Q: Please give me a brief overview of the two-stage Dorothy Day Place and its purpose.
A: Dorothy Day Place is a bold new vision to prevent and end homelessness in St. Paul. Higher Ground Saint Paul opened in January 2017 and offers more than 500 people experiencing homelessness a safe and dignified place to lay their head at night, including shelter and permanent housing.
The second phase, Saint Paul Opportunity Center and Dorothy Day Residence, will offer 177 additional permanent housing units, as well as a one-stop shop that will connect people to critical services … job training, housing and a medical clinic. Ramsey County, the Veterans Administration and health care providers will offer onsite services.
Construction will be completed in 2019. The project is estimated at $100 million, and is the largest public-private partnership in state history in housing and social services. A private capital campaign, led by corporate leaders from across the Twin Cities, raised $40 million in support. All told, Dorothy Day Place will provide services to more than 1,000 people per day.
Q: What is your hope for what will be accomplished? The outcomes?
A: Across our economy and our civic landscape, breakthroughs are happening when there are integrative partnerships, innovation, scale and speed. This is the approach behind Dorothy Day Place. To fundamentally transform what was once a system of perpetual crisis management at the old Dorothy Day Center, to a proven model that integrates dignified emergency services with resources that lead to stability and opportunity. Linking shelter to one-on-one support, permanent housing, health care, job training.
In downtown St. Paul, this presents the opportunity and responsibility for Dorothy Day Place to contribute to the vitality of downtown and the entire community. This [will be] a case study in how to address complex problems in a businesslike way.
Q: Who were the several major donors, private and public, and do you have all the money you need to build and operate?
A: On the private-sector side, 15 prominent regional business and community leaders spearheaded the Dorothy Day fundraising campaign, including co-chairs CEO Doug Baker of Ecolab; Mary Brainerd, former CEO of HealthPartners; and Andy Cecere, CEO of U.S. Bancorp.
There was a lead grant by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, the most significant private investment to support Catholic Charities in recent history. More than 500 individuals and organizations contributed to the private campaign.
The private donors also played key roles in securing the necessary public resources. They came from the state, Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul.
Q: Do you have a favorite story to share about a client, perhaps a mom with kids or single guy with a drinking problem, whom Catholic Charities housing and support helped get through the tough time and move on to self-sufficiency?
A: One of the most moving is from a woman who benefited from [our] medical respite program and moved into her own apartment at Higher Ground. She wrote to us and said: “Thank you for giving me the will to live again.”
There could be nothing more affirming than that. Another resident had couch-hopped for two years, then moved into the Higher Ground shelter. She soon moved into her own apartment upstairs in Higher Ground.
She attended Catholic Charities’ 12-week culinary skills training course in Minneapolis, commuting by bus two hours per day. After completing the course, she took a job at a restaurant on Grand Avenue in St. Paul while attending a 20-week program to earn dual certification as a community health worker and certified nursing assistant.