Volunteers step in to ready emergency housing shelter

Volunteers have been helping Stepping Stone Emergency Housing get ready to move into its new quarters.

Home Depot volunteer Megan Hempel paints a door at Stepping Stone Emergency Housing’s new home in the Cronin Building at Anoka County’s Rum River Human Services Center campus on the former Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center campus.
Home Depot volunteer Megan Hempel paints a door at Stepping Stone Emergency Housing’s new home in the Cronin Building at Anoka County’s Rum River Human Services Center campus on the former Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center campus.

Anoka County is leasing space to the county’s only homeless shelter for adults in the Cronin Building on the former Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center campus, which the county has purchased from the state of Minnesota.

The move is scheduled to take place Sept. 1, with Stepping Stone occupying the first floor of the building as well as a portion of lower level.

Earlier this month, volunteers and staff prepped and painted the area of the Cronin Building that Stepping Stone will use.

Aug. 4 and 6, Stepping Stone staff, members of the Stepping Stone Board of Directors and volunteers from the community did the prep work for the area to be painted.

Then Aug. 7, volunteers from nine stores in Home Depot’s North District spent the day painting Stepping Stone’s new home.

Not only did Home Depot provide the volunteers, it also donated $10,000 and 80 gallons of paint.

“Home Depot has been so generous,” said Lonni McCauley, Stepping Stone chief operating officer.

More than that, two paint manufacturers, Glidden and Behr, each donated 40 gallons of paint to the cause, according to McCauley.

Neil Schaitel from the Home Depot Northtown store led the Home Depot team of volunteers.

Home Depot’s involvement began when McCauley stopped by the Northtown store asking for assistance for Stepping Stone and talked with him, Schaitel said.

“That started the ball rolling,” he said.

Being involved in the community through donations and volunteering is part of Home Depot’s mission, according to Schaitel.

“We are only too glad to help,” Schaitel said.

At its present facility in Anoka, Stepping Stone has 16 beds, plus four beds set aside for emergencies, for example, referrals from police departments and people leaving Mercy Hospital with nowhere to stay, McCauley said.

At the Cronin Building, Stepping Stone’s capacity will increase to 60, although McCauley does not expect to reach that figure until early 2013, she said.

“There will be certain requirements we will have to meet from the county,” McCauley said.

With the expansion, Stepping Stone will be placing more emphasis on providing shelter for homeless veterans, according to McCauley.

And it plans to use the portion of the lower level of the building to its expand its program to build sustainability among its clients so they are able to live independently and function in society when they leave the shelter, McCauley said.

Called Thrive through Education, the program teaches clients both job skills development and life skills, including responsibilities of a renter and landlord and taking care of a home, she said.

In addition, Stepping Stone also hopes to put in place an exercise class for its clients to include components such as stress alleviation, yoga and aroma therapy, McCauley said.

The average stay at Stepping Stone for clients is 41 days and the typical client is a white male about 40 years old and a construction worker, she said.

According to McCauley, Stepping Stone can only provide housing for five women at any one time right now, but that will increase once the emergency shelter makes the move to the Cronin Building.

This past winter the waiting list for beds at Stepping Stone reached 90, but with summer and warmer weather demand declines, McCauley said.

“They would rather camp out than be subject to our rules, but it’s different when it gets colder,” she said.

As to its present facility when Stepping Stone moves out, McCauley said the board of directors would like to keep the building and turn it into rental housing “for others that need support in the community.”

Under its lease agreement with the county, Stepping Stone will pay the county $1,250 a month in rent plus $1,000 per month for utilities.

The lease agreement runs through Dec. 31, then will automatically renew for successive one-year terms for three years unless terminated.

Anoka County supports Stepping Stone’s goal of expanding its capacity with an emphasis on programming for veterans, according to Don Ilse, Anoka County division manager for human services.

The Cronin Building is located at what is now the county’s Rum River Human Service Center campus after the state declared the property surplus once the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center had moved and the county purchased the buildings, the last one being this facility.

The second floor of the building will be used by the county, but for what has not yet been determined, according to County Administrator Jerry Soma.

Stepping Stone began serving homeless adults in 1994 and in 2005 received non-profit status with a board of directors appointed in 2007.

Today, Stepping Stone has an annual budget in excess of $300,000, with nearly half of the funding coming from local churches, foundations, individuals and community groups.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]

  • Tina Rivers

    Sounds like a GREAT place to live. I am in need of emergency sheltet.