Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Family on couch at Salvation Army housing unit

Salvation Army housing: The foundation for success

Added on Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Everything starts with housing. Without a warm and safe place to sleep, there is only chaos. No home, no job. No job, no food.

The Salvation Army is a major player in the fight to house people without a place to live. Every night, an average of 1,200 people sleep inside our 50 housing and shelter facilities in Minnesota and North Dakota.

“Whether they’re a chronically homeless person or a hardworking family that’s lost everything to the poor economy, The Salvation Army operates a housing program to fit their
situation,” said Lt. Col. Robert Thomson, Salvation Army Northern Division Commander.

Our housing programs fall under three categories:

  1. Emergency: Just the basics: bed, and a place to wash up.
  2. Transitional: Up to two years of free or subsidized housing for low-income individuals and families, homeless veterans and those in recovery.
  3. Permanent: Free or affordable permanent housing for the poor, elderly, veterans and others.

All of these housing programs include professional case management support from trained Salvation Army staff members.

Here are three examples of Salvation Army housing programs, with testimonials from the people who depend on them.

Emergency: St. Paul Youth Shelter

Sydney Schaust, a St. Paul youth shelter resident

In June 2012, The Salvation Army opened a new 11-bed shelter in St. Paul for homeless youth ages 18–21. Guests stay up to 90 days and receive a safe place to sleep, eat and regroup from street life. Salvation Army staff members evaluate all their needs – health, food, legal, transportation, I.D. services and more – and help them find a home, job or enroll in school.

Sydney Schaust, 18, arrived at the shelter during fall 2012. She’d just been discharged from a mental hospital for attempted suicide.

“If not for this place, I have no clue where I would’ve gone,” she said. “Probably a path I didn’t want to go.”

The shelter helped Sydney stabilize. Today she’s living at The Salvation Army Booth Brown House, a transitional housing facility for youth ages 16–25. She plans to live there for the next few years while she attends college to become a veterinary technician. Before her classes started in July 2013, she signed up to volunteer at a local animal shelter.

“Ever since I came to The Salvation Army I’ve become the most successful I’ve ever been,” Sydney said. “I’m not depressed anymore. When big issues come up, I pray and move on.”

The opening of the youth shelter was made possible by the Otto Bremer Foundation.

Permanent: Castleview in Rochester

Bob Brakke, a Salvation Army Castleview residentOne of the Northern Division’s largest housing facilities – Castleview – is in downtown Rochester. It’s a four-story facility with 32 single-room apartments for the disabled, veterans and formerly homeless individuals. It also includes an entire floor of medical and dental services. Residents can stay as long as they want. Rent is either free or 30 percent of their income.

Bob Brakke, 60, began living at Castleview soon after it opened in 2008. He struggled with homelessness and can no longer work. He spent years living at shelters, never thinking he’d have a place so nice.

“My daughter’s been here to visit and she said this place was the smartest move I ever made – I haven’t made a whole lot of smart moves,” said Bob, who spent most of his life working manufacturing jobs.

If not for Castleview, Bob said he’d probably be huddled somewhere on the street. Among other things, he loves the independence of his home.

“Here I have my own little kitchen,” he said. “I love to cook. If I get hungry at 2 a.m., I can get up and fix something.”

Like others at Castleview, Bob receives government assistance and lives off of about $200 per month. He keeps busy by cleaning the Castleview grounds, walking at least a mile every day, visiting with Salvation Army staff and listening to sports on the radio. He also rings bells during the Christmas season; a few years ago he put in 96 hours.

“They’re great to me here, so I like to give something back,” he said. “I’m very appreciative.”

Transitional: Duluth Duplexes

The Duluth Salvation Army operates 16 units of transitional housing, which are mainly duplexes and small apartments spread throughout the city. Most are occupied by formerly homeless families working toward self-sufficiency. Their average stay is 16 months, and their rent is either free or 30 percent of their income.

“We help families from all ends of the spectrum,” said transitional housing supervisor Heather Smith, who teaches parents how to create day-to-day goals like paying bills and getting their kids to school on time. “Some are first-time homeless, some are long-term homeless. Some are in recovery, some are not.”

Smith is currently helping a formerly homeless family from Chicago. Xavier Haywood, Chameka Banks and their daughter, Chamiah, 5, (pictured above) moved into one of the duplexes on March 7, 2012. Three days later, Chameka gave birth to their son, Xavier Jr.

“I was afraid we’d be having him in the family shelter we were staying at,” she said. “Having this place was a big relief.”

The family moved to Duluth to chart a new course.

“I come from poverty and grew up seeing stuff the average kid doesn’t. My brother was murdered at age 16,” Xavier said. “I spent some time in jail and prayed a lot when I was locked up. I came to my senses. I could keep going like I was, or start doing what I knew was right.”

For the sake of his family, Xavier is capitalizing on the opportunity he’s been given. He spends 70-plus hours per week at his full-time job cleaning hotel rooms and in college courses. He wants to become a civil engineer.

“Ever since we got on with The Salvation Army it’s been nothing but good things,” he said. “We’re thankful for this program. It’s helped this family grow together.”