Emergency Housing: Love of Neighbor in Bricks and Mortar

Some of you are already aware that Washington County has approved $8 million to build or purchase a space for emergency housing in the county. The county has located a site in the city of Stillwater that they want to purchase and repurpose for this inspiring work. Right now, Washington County is already housing about 20 individuals or pairs (singles, couples, parent/adult child) in two hotels, one in Stillwater and one in Woodbury.

Further budget allocations provide the means to contract with Stepping Stones Emergency Housing to operate the housing. Supportive services will be located within the building, allowing the residents to move toward more permanent housing solutions. This work is already being done, but it’s expensive to pay market rates for hotel rooms. Building emergency housing would offer the same supports more efficiently and economically to the neighbors that already live in Washington County.

That’s an important detail. The people who would be housed in this new facility are already our neighbors. Many of them have jobs in the community, like checking us out at the grocery story.

While many struggle with disabling conditions, they are better able to achieve sustainable health and permanency with stable housing. 

Sadly, there are rumors that the folks currently housed at the local hotel are causing trouble, when in fact, they are not. They are vulnerable, often victimized by others staying at the hotel. Like we all do, they deserve safe housing.

Every body is safer, when every body is housed.

We are partnering with our local congregations in support of this project. So, over the next months we will update you about opportunities to support this holy, sacred work. (Yes, it’s county work, but it is love of neighbor in bricks and mortar!)

What can you do?

Pray for this project, the leaders, decision makers, and the human beings at the center.

Get educated. There are info sheets on the Welcome Counter outside the church office. Ask John Hodler, Jeff Anderson, Roger Funk, Pastor Peter, or Pastor Chris your questions. We would all love to chat with you.

Contact your council person, offering your support for the project with your voice, prayers and enthusiasm.

This is the kind of community we want to live in. The kind that doesn’t export it’s vulnerable—rather embraces, cares for, and supports them. Offering each neighbor the dignity and safety they deserve.

Please contemplate the information below and may you find it helpful in your caring conversations.

Key messages:

  • All people in Washington County want a safe and dignified place to live.
  • The pandemic exposed the need for emergency housing in Washington County. The county has the capacity and the existing framework in place to respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
  • Washington County kept people safe during the pandemic with emergency housing in hotels. It was a wise use of public resources. The county can build on the success of the hotel program by creating space for short-term emergency housing.
  • Washington County’s emergency housing will create a safe, dignified, supportive place for people who live here to navigate homelessness and move toward the stability of home.
  • No one can prosper without a home base. Supportive emergency housing gives people the chance to go to work, keep their health and stay in relationship with family and loved ones. 

Myth: Providing emergency housing to homeless people will attract more homeless persons from other counties.
Fact: Washington County “exports” more homeless persons to other communities. In 2019-2020, an average of 58 Washington County residents utilized shelters in Ramsey, Anoka, and Dakota counties. We currently have 20 spaces in hotel shelter, and we have been at capacity the whole time. This allows very limited capacity to serve persons from other counties.
– Washington County | Community Services | Homeless Resources and Housing Information