Rainy days may seem dismal and dreary to those that have a roof over their heads and a place to call their own, but for others, the rain is a sign of transition and new beginnings.
Just days after Union Street Place opened their doors to the public, as a transitional housing shelter, the nonprofit agency has occupied their first room, making that rainy day a breath of fresh air for the family of three. As with any family in crisis, having a place to finally call home for the time being and getting that little bit of extra help getting back on their feet is just what this family needed when the shelter opened, and came not a moment too soon, according to Union Street Manager Kelsey Johnson-Rode.
“Every family has a different story to tell, and this one was no different,” stated Johnson-Rode. While the family wishes to remain anonymous, the chance to take a step back and regroup is nothing less than ‘perfect’, they said. After spending three weeks in a motel and dealing with Mom’s doctor bills and her fight with cancer, being unexpectedly homeless because the bills couldn’t be paid, was the last thing this family needed, and definitely never expected.
“This is what we are here for," explained Johnson-Rode. "Every story is different. One family may have lost their main source of income to unemployment, while another may have experienced a death of a spouse or a house fire. It's hard to tell what may be a barrier in any family life, but we are here to help them work on having a permanent place to go in less than 90 days.”
Families who stay at the shelter agree to work with onsite staff while they are there to figure out what barriers they may need to overcome in order to reach a sustainable, more permanent solution to the shelter.
“We want people to feel welcome, the community, as well as our guests. Now that the shelter is open, if area residents want to ask questions or have their concerns voiced, we urge those individuals to bring their concerns forward so that everyone is on the same page,” said Johnson-Rode. "We strive for nothing less than success."
What started as nothing more than an idea and a generous donation by a local, unnamed source, has finally come to fruition and officially opened its doors to those in need. The former St. Peter Motel, now officially renamed, Union Street Place, celebrated its grand opening last Friday, taking this concept idea to a new level.
“We can finally say we are open for business and move forward to do what we intended to do for so long now, help those who are in need,” said Partners for Affordable Housing (PAH) Executive Director Jen Theneman.
Plans in action
When PAH was gifted the Saint Peter Motel, just over a year and a half ago, the Mankato nonprofit agency eagerly went forward with plans to re-open the motel as an emergency shelter for at-risk individuals and homeless families this fall. This transitional shelter would provide temporary housing for those in need, giving Nicollet County residents, and surrounding homeless, a much needed area shelter.
The St. Peter shelter is similarly modeled after its Mankato affiliates, Theresa House and Welcome Inn and will be open to not only victims of violence, but also to all homeless individuals, and families in crisis.
According to Theneman, not all the rooms are complete at this point, but the facility is going to be ready to house up to seven families in the next couple weeks.
“We have some large groups volunteer their time in helping to get last minute touches completed to each of our rooms,” said Thenemen. Many updates have been made to both the interiors, but also to exterior at the former motel, with painting, replacing flooring and lighting, and updating furniture to each of the rooms.
This is only a start, as the shelter still has plans to offer a full kitchen space and common area, allowing residents the opportunity to prepare healthy meals and gather together in hope of creating a healing and communal environment for those who may not have had such experiences in the past.
“I am so proud of my team and seeing how much they have really wanted to be a part of this and how selflessly they have devoted their own time to making this shelter come together," Theneman said. “This is when the vision becomes reality, and all the details come together. It's great to have a completed space and something to show people. It's wonderful to be at the next stage, one that we have all been working toward.”
While many of the cosmetic changes have now been updated, there are still many things that need to be tweaked and fine tuned, added Theneman. The shelter is still in need of donated items, such as bedding, kitchen items, and gently used furniture. Donations can be made to the PAH Free Store, located on Good Council in Mankato.
To those who watch from the outside, this may seem like the end of a road, a completion, but for the staff and volunteers who have worked together this past year to make this dream into a reality, this is just the beginning, according to Theneman.
”Our work begins here; healing and helping starts now," she said. "It is so rewarding to be able to see the positivity and excitement on the faces of those families who need to move in and everything around them has been nothing short of difficult. This is the beginning for us; this is where our objective starts to take shape and come alive.”