The Kateri Residence, a south Minneapolis home that has helped hundreds of American Indian women recover from drug and alcohol addiction, could soon be the target of a rescue operation after disclosing that it faces severe financial troubles.
The two-story home, which is run by St. Stephen’s Human Services, announced plans this month to close in July after 44 years in operation. It cited years of financial losses and shifts in government funding priorities. The decision alarmed members of the Indian community in the Twin Cities, who voiced concern over losing the 16-bed residence amid a deadly opioid crisis and an increase in people experiencing homelessness.
But a recent Facebook posting about Kateri’s closure caught the attention of Patina Park, executive director of the nonprofit Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC), a Minneapolis nonprofit that provides a range of housing, drug treatment and mental health programs for Indian women and their families.
Days before Christmas, Park and her agency expressed interest in taking over Kateri Residence and even expanding the facility’s programs to include more chemical dependency treatment. The offer, however, came with a significant caveat: The MIWRC would have to raise at least $500,000 by next spring to make much-needed structural repairs to the aging brick building at 2408 4th Av. S.
“This program is too important to disappear,” Park said. “Our entire population suffers when families can’t find stable housing or relapse because they see there’s no purpose. … It can’t go away. It won’t go away.”
The MIWRC is not the only agency interested in Kateri Residence.
Gail Dorfman, executive director of St. Stephen’s, said two tribal nations and four nonprofits have approached her organization to propose alternative uses for the facility since the closure announcement. A nonprofit housing developer is eyeing the property as a site for low-income housing. Another agency expressed interest in converting the building into a clinic for chemical dependency treatment, she said.
Dorfman said officials at St. Stephen’s are weighing all the proposals and expect to make a decision on the building’s future by the end of January or early February.
“Whatever the future use of the building is, our goal is to ensure that it continues to serve the Native American community,” she said. “We feel very strongly about that.”
Since its opening in 1972, the Kateri Residence 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 and community feasts.
Angelique Morgan, 27, a former resident at Kateri and a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said reports that the home might close were “devastating” to her and other women who have stayed at Kateri.
In July 2013, Morgan was pregnant and struggling with alcohol abuse when she was admitted to Kateri Residence. The staff, she said, immediately made her feel at ease and connected her with other Indian mothers who had overcome their addictions. The program also gave much-needed structure to her life. Each morning, residents gathered downstairs for prayers and daily “smudging,” an Indian practice of burning dried sage and directing the smoke over their bodies.
“They built trust by relating to us culturally in a very empathetic way,” she said.
Morgan lived at Kateri for nearly a year and credits the program with giving her the strength to stay sober and pursue a degree in human services at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, where she will graduate this May.
“I would not be where I am today were it not for Kateri,” said Morgan, whose daughter, Mayeli, is now 4. “Without this program, there is no hope for a lot of these women.”