Catholic Charities President and CEO Tim Marx is happy to see the old Dorothy Day Center host its last annual community breakfast on Friday for 400 business and community leaders.
It’s not that the center hasn’t been needed — or didn’t do a good job, he said. For 35 years, Dorothy Day volunteers and staff members have served meals and provided a warm and safe place for homeless adults to spend the night.
But Catholic Charities’ new Higher Ground complex, rising across the street, is set to open in December, marking the halfway point in a project to replace the Dorothy Day Center.
“I won’t be upset [to see the old building torn down],” Marx said. “We now have a new and better way to serve the people who need us.”
On Friday, Marx and Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis will announce that they have secured more than 75 percent of their private fundraising goal in an ambitious public-private partnership. The new two-building campus will cost about $100 million, of which officials are working to raise $40 million from private sources. More than $31 million has now been raised, Marx said.
“For 35 years, the Dorothy Day Center has been a place of hope and refuge for those in need,” Marx said. “Thanks to this historic public-private partnership, we are making way for a new vision that will provide dignified shelter, permanent homes and pathways out of poverty.”
More than $7.6 million has been raised since officials announced their most recent progress report in October, including donations from the Hardenbergh Foundation, Premier Banks, Land O’Lakes, Sit Investment Associates, the Wells Fargo Foundation and the Wilf family. The private fundraising campaign started in May 2015 with $5 million from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.
The project that will replace the Dorothy Day Center is a two-building campus with services intended to prevent and end homelessness. The first phase — Higher Ground Saint Paul — is a five-story building that will provide emergency shelter and 193 units of permanent housing. It is scheduled to open before Christmas.
The second phase, Opportunity Center, will be a six-story building across the street from Higher Ground that will connect people to health, employment and housing services. It will also have 171 units of permanent housing. Catholic Charities hopes to finish it by 2018.
Like Marx, Mayor Chris Coleman said he’s happy to replace the old center, which began in 1981 as a drop-in facility for meals but morphed into an overnight shelter. Hundreds of people sleep on mats on the floor nightly. “The facility is inadequate,” Coleman said. “It is not treating people with the dignity they deserve.”
The new campus, he said, will provide a continuum from homelessness to self-sufficiency — thanks to the generosity of many.
The state of Minnesota, Ramsey County and other public sources have committed more than $25 million to the project, and more is being sought this legislative session. Gov. Mark Dayton and the state Senate have recommended $12 million in state bonding for the Opportunity Center. Officials are hoping for a share of other state funding dedicated to housing.
Marx said he’s confident that state leaders will come through with the $60 million total public portion of the project in time for completion.
“We are getting broad support — bipartisan support and statewide support,” Marx said. “People across the state truly recognize the need.”