In St. Paul: building a homeless shelter and making more people homeless

The Dorothy Day Center just launched a campaign to raise $40 million for a new homeless shelter, which should relieve some of the current elbow-to-elbow overcrowding. Ironically, at just about the same time, Como by the Lake apartments announced a move that may make more people homeless.

Ruben Rosario reported recently that the owners of the 99-apartment Como by the Lake complex notified elderly residents that they will end participation in subsidized Section 8 rentals. Residents of 57 of the 99 units currently use the project-based Section 8 federal rent subsidies.

Section 8 benefits both tenants and landlords, making housing affordable to low-income tenants and rentals profitable to landlords. A project-based Section 8 program offers subsidies to developers or owners of multi-family buildings to rent some or all of their units to eligible low-income tenants. These subsidies stay with the apartment. If a tenant leaves, they cannot use the subsidy in another apartment.

A second Section 8 program offers subsidies to tenants, who then have to find a landlord willing to rent to them. These subsidies are portable — they go with the tenant. Unfortunately, the individual Section 8 voucher program has a miles-long waiting list.

In a tight housing market, Como by the Lake can charge higher rents than allowed by Section 8 and make bigger profits. That leaves elderly and disabled tenants facing an expensive housing market, without the assistance they have had until now.

Maybe they can spend more money for higher rents if they eat one meal less per day. Or if they cut pills in half instead of taking the prescribed dosage. If they end up homeless, they can join the people jockeying for floor space at the crowded Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul.

According to the Star Tribune, the elderly are a growing part of the homeless population:

“The campaign comes at a time when agencies across the Twin Cities are scrambling to handle a growing older homeless population. Staff at shelters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties say the age wave has hit and they are not equipped to handle it.”

The first phase of the Dorothy Day Center expansion will offer expanded emergency shelter, but it won’t be ready until some time in 2016. The second phase will include a Connection Center, to provide space for services such as the Veterans Administration, as well as four floors of permanent housing. That phase is planned for 2018. If you want to contribute, here’s the link.

Related post: End homelessness with Housing First

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2 Comments

Filed under housing, St. Paul Notes

2 responses to “In St. Paul: building a homeless shelter and making more people homeless

  1. Pingback: End homelessness with Housing First | News Day

  2. Pingback: Good news, bad news for dogs, cats and renters | News Day

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