‘This is God’s work’; St. Paul Breaks Ground for Dorothy Day Homeless Shelter

Published 10:02 am Friday, October 9, 2015

By Frederick Melo and Maja Beckstrom

St. Paul Pioneer Press

St. Paul — Private donors have raised $23.6 million for the expansion of the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul, and Gov. Mark Dayton will press lawmakers for more public funding during the 2016 Legislature.

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Government and corporate leaders gathered Thursday in downtown St. Paul for the groundbreaking for the Higher Ground St. Paul project — a shelter and homeless services campus to replace the overcrowded Dorothy Day Center.

Dayton, noting the recent development in downtown St. Paul, said: “This is so fitting that we set aside this space for the least of these, our brethren.”

The overall project has an estimated cost of $100 million — with $60 million coming from public coffers and $40 million from private. The campaign launched in May with a $5 million lead grant by the Richard M. Schiller Family Foundation.

Construction on the first phase started in August with the demolition of the old Labor & Professional Centre at 411 Main St.

The new five-story, L-shaped shelter will include free bunks and pay-for-stay beds for 278 men and women as well as 193 small, permanent apartments on the upper floors.

“This is God’s work,” said Doug Baker, Jr., chairman and CEO of Ecolab, and the campaign’s co-chairman. “We’ve crossed the halfway mark in our campaign. This is a huge compelling need. … We think this work is so important. The faster we start raising money, the faster these buildings go up.”

In remarks to those assembled, Catholic Charities CEO Tim Marx noted the themes of Pope Francis’ recent U.S. visit.

“Two weeks ago today, Pope Francis visited … a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C.,” Marx said. “(Pope Francis) said there is no moral justification, no justification whatsoever for the lack of housing.”