The voices of Elliot Park residents and business owners showed a mixture of anger, praise, and concern during the Building, Land Use, & Housing (BLUH) meeting, hosted by Elliot Park Neighborhood Incorporated (EPNI). The primary issue of concern: Catholic Charities buying and renovating what is currently Augustana Healthcare Center into housing units for residents who were previously homeless or had challenges finding stable housing.
As of right now, the name of the project is Exodus 2.0, and Catholic Charities plans to have residents sign leases on the apartments, with a few designated as short-term leases for those needing housing after leaving a hospital.
The project plans include special medical beds and a Health Care for the Homeless clinic that will serve residents who might need medical care.
In December of 2019, the news was announced. Consequently, some residents of Elliot Park were shocked at the news. They said they were angry and concerned with a lack of information, so they attended the BLUH meeting held on Jan. 16, approximately a month after the announcement, to voice their frustrations.
According to a document from Catholic Charities and Augustana Healthcare, they organizations were unable to disclose information about the agreement right away because of the requirements of the Minnesota Department of Health. Augustana had a non-disclosure agreement, stating that they must have a relocation plan for the residents in place before the community was informed. So until the sale was approved, it had to remain private.
Residents Expressed Mixed Opinions
“Part of the process was that every project that came into the neighborhood had been funneled through the neighborhood organization,” said one of the residents at the meeting. “Even people who didn’t have to ask permission … People had courtesy. They came through the neighborhood.”
Catholic Charities and Augustana didn’t follow this process, coming to a final decision before informing the community.
“Elliot Park has been burdened with just an extraordinary, overwhelming amount of [homeless shelters] so is this the right place for it?” one of the residents asked. Catholic Charities though, says the renovated building will not be a “homeless shelter.”.
But some in the crowd had positive things to say as well.
“I’ve covered the gambit of all the services. I saw a lot of what Catholic Charities does for people and for the area,” said Patty Reynolds, a former resident of the Exodus project who is currently residing in Augustana Healthcare Center, giving her experiences and voicing her praise. I’ve seen and learned these last couple months of what Catholic Charities is bringing to Augustana.”
Currently, the project, has a budget of $65 million. The original Exodus housing facility is relocating to this building. This is estimated to be completed in 2021. This will double the housing capacity of the project.
“There will be people, who are at risk of not having a permanent home or may not have had a permanent home, that will get a key to their permanent home,” said President and CEO of Catholic Charities, Tim Marx.
This article was updated Feb. 14 to state that Catholic Charities plans for the Exodus 2.0 apartments to be permanent housing for residents, and not a “homeless shelter.” The Northerner regrets the error.