MINNEAPOLIS, MN (December 16, 2010) – The Minneapolis City Council approved a permit for First Covenant Church to operate a homeless shelter just hours before the congregation welcomed their first 18 “guests” last Friday.
First Covenant Church expects to serve as an overnight shelter for up to 50 homeless people a night during the winter months.
The church is working in cooperation with the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center. At times the center, which has had an overflow of up to 100 people, sought assistance from other organizations to relieve overcrowding at their facility.
Other organizations know that Harbor Light is the only shelter in the Twin Cities that does not turn people away when the center has reached capacity. When the other shelters are full, they direct homeless people to Harbor Light.
Last month, the online news publication MinnPost published stories that focused on the overcrowding problem and told of people sleeping on chairs and in hallways because there was no other space for mats.
Numbers of homeless people in the county are at a 10-year high, with some advocates estimating 300 or more Hennepin County residents sleep outdoors each night, the MinnPost reported.
First Covenant’s lead pastor, Dan Collison, says the church wants to ease the burden while helping the citizens of Hennepin County.
A survey published last year found that nearly 20 percent of the county’s homeless residents had been laid off in the previous six months. The lack of employment opportunities was cited as a major barrier to escaping their circumstances.
Heading Home Hennepin, a comprehensive 10-year plan launched by Hennepin County and Minneapolis to end homelessness, will fund most of the program at First Covenant. County commissioners recently authorized $117,000 to cover operating costs.
Financial contributions from the congregation and other members of the community will provide the additional funding that is needed. Harbor Light employees and volunteers from the church will staff the shelter at First Covenant.
Collison says the church already has received support from other neighborhood groups and businesses. “They recognize that the homeless are already on our streets in east downtown and Elliot Park and that we have to be part of the solutions rather than just saying ‘go away.’ ”
In November, the church showed a 30-minute video on homeless ministry in the city to prepare the congregation for welcoming and better understanding their guests and their needs.