The Kateri Residence, a temporary home for American Indian women recovering from drug addiction, is closing its doors after 44 years.
Citing financial pressures, St. Stephen's Human Services, which operates the south Minneapolis home, said it has stopped taking new residents and will permanently shut its doors by July 2018, as staff works to help the current residents find permanent housing in the community, according to an online announcement. The home has a capacity to house 12 women, but currently has fewer than 10 residents.
"Our first focus will be working with those families to make sure they will have as smooth a transition as possible, because these are families that have been through a ton of trauma," said Gail Dorfman, executive director of St. Stephen's.
The two-story brick residence, located in Minneapolis' Phillips neighborhood, has long been a fixture in the American Indian community in the Twin Cities.
The decision comes as local officials report an alarming increase in overdose-related emergency calls, both citywide and in the neighborhoods surrounding Little Earth — long the heart of Minneapolis' American Indian population. Through the first week of December, Minneapolis police responded to 32 overdose-related 911 calls in the neighborhoods around Little Earth, twice the average number for the previous five years.
Dr. Kari Rabie, chief medical officer at the Native American Community Clinic in south Minneapolis, said Kateri had become more vital in recent years, as the opioid epidemic intensified.
"Losing any transitional housing at this point — amid a major drug epidemic — is a really big deal," she said.
Minnesota has one of the widest disparities in the nation in the rates of overdose deaths between American Indians and whites. Statewide, Indians were six times more likely to die of a drug overdose last year than white residents, according to Minnesota Department of Health data.
James Cross, founder of Natives Against Heroin, a 12,000 member group based in Minneapolis that advocates for sobriety, said that over the years he has referred dozens of women to the Kateri Residence, and has watched as many have returned to stable lives. Without such a program, he said, many of these women would have ended up homeless and cut off from drug treatment services.
"This is a very big deal in our community," said Cross, who is Anishinaabe and Dakota. "Unless we can find an alternative shelter soon, more of our Native sisters will end up on the streets or living under bridges."
In addition to providing temporary housing, the program has helped hundreds of young women find jobs, health care and support for recovering from drug addiction. The home was known for blending traditional treatment methods with a focus on Indian culture and spirituality, through such practices as talking circles, community feasts and meditation.
The Kateri Residence gave priority to young Indian women who are pregnant and have small children, or who recently have been released from prison.
Dorfman said the home had struggled financially for the past decade, as its focus on transitional housing fell out of favor with government programs. In an effort to combat homelessness, state and local agencies have shifted more of their funding toward programs that provide permanent housing.