Business, government and church interests in Minneapolis have raised $350,000 to house 150 people.
Gail Dorfman and Cathy ten Broeke visited the Salvation Army shelter on Currie Avenue in downtown Minneapolis one night before Christmas to check on recent reports of a rise in numbers.
The buzz started that government officials were in the house.
"The thing that surprised us wasn't that it was overcrowded, but that we were there no longer than five minutes when men and women inundated us with different questions" about jobs and housing, said Dorfman, a Hennepin County commissioner.
Dorfman and Ten Broeke, head of the joint Minneapolis/Hennepin County homelessness project, saw that many would qualify for assistance. But they couldn't do it on their own. They needed case managers.
Nearly five months later, the result is $350,000 raised by the Currie Avenue Partnership, which Tuesday will announce it will be able to hire enough case managers to house 150 homeless people with disabilities.
About a third of the funding came each from the Minneapolis Downtown Council, Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness and individual contributions.
It's a "three-legged stool," Downtown Council President Sam Grabarski said, that promises an end to homelessness with such efforts.
The project targets homeless people with disabilities, often involving mental health or chemical dependency, which qualify them for the state's Group Residential Housing program. Once they're enrolled, state and federal funds ensure ongoing support.
"We knew there were a number of business leaders who would respond to a tangible idea, especially if it tapped into a current program," Grabarski said.
After Ten Broeke spoke to religious leaders last winter, they invited Grabarski to coffee at Westminster Presbyterian Church. He listened as the Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen of Westminster and the Rev. James Gertmenian of Plymouth Congregational Church talked about using the state program to find permanent homes for the 150.
"I said, we're in," said Grabarski, whose business organization promotes downtown as a place to live, work and play.
Morally, it's the right thing to do, he said. And, he added, such a program also helps make downtown more livable by improving the lives of people who might otherwise be causing trouble on the streets.
Ten Broeke said eight case managers have been hired and 10 people already have been housed as a result of the project. One of them, a woman with mental illness, had been in and out of the Salvation Army shelter for 10 years; she recently moved to an apartment in Linden Hills.
The project is a good fit in the city and county's 10-year effort to end homelessness, which recently finished its third year, Ten Broeke said. "We have to be very smart and creative and cost-effective, and this is one way to do that," she said.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455