The gift of time at Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish Shelters

Gift givers

It would have been easy for Ken McCraley and his team from KMS, a black and locally owned small business, to tell me that he didn’t have the capacity to load or unload dozens of mats donated from Abbott Northwestern Hospital or that he only had manpower but no way to deliver. Instead, he loaded trucks and a crew of staff and took a breath with each ask I made (“Can we carry them into the sleeping spaces?” or “Can we lay them out for planning and then pick them up and move again?”) and his patient team made the vision of sheltering women and men real.

Thank you to photojournalist Liz Flores and reporter Chris Serres with the Minneapolis Star Tribune for joining us on our journey to opening the Elim Church and Strong Tower Shelters. As they reported today:

On a brisk morning this week, more than a dozen men and women formed a human chain that stretched from a delivery truck parked along a church sidewalk, up two flights of stairs and into the cavernous gym of Elim Church in northeast Minneapolis.

Within minutes, everyone was grabbing, lifting and passing heavy mattresses up the chain, rapidly filling the gym with enough makeshift beds to provide overnight shelter to 40 homeless adults seeking refuge from the cold. “Everyone grab a mat, we want this ready by Valentine’s Day,” said Monica Nilsson, an organizer of the new shelter. “Let’s get ‘er done!” shouted another worker as he hoisted a mattress up the stairs.

We appreciate them being with us and recognizing the success we are starting to see with public-private partnership in moving people in from outside.

Monica Nilsson, Shelter Director

Job Opportunities: NE Minneapolis Shelters looking for Advocates

Update Feb 10 – no current openings

We are currently seeking a few Advocates. Help spread the word!

Position Overview

The Advocate at Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish shelters works within a team to manage the nightly operations at the site. Homeless individuals without safe overnight accommodation will stay in 2 churches that are next door to each other. Guests will begin the evening dining at one location, if donated meal service is provided. Those who identify as women will be overnight at one location, couples and men next door. Staff will support each other at both sites.

Learn more and please send email note of interest and resume to Monica Nilsson at mnilsson@tasksunlimited.org. Call 612.405.5156 with questions. Position closes end of day Sunday, Feb 9.

A blank slate and open hearts create shelters

Some people walk into a fixer-upper and know immediately how to make it shine. Monica Nilsson and the pastors from from Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish have that unique vision – multiplied.

Today we did a walk through of the spaces to assess what’s there and what needs to happen to best meet the needs of future guests.

Elim will host an evening meal for everyone. Then the plan is for Elim to host women up stairs in an old grade school gym. There are bathrooms, showers and storage space. The facilities need some TLC but there are plans to get it, to make sure everything works and add some privacy. Among other items in their closet are old, majestic theater drapes that will likely be re-purposed to become sound-absorbing tapestries.

Strong Tower will host men in their dining room. It’s a large space and so cozy warm. But like Elim, it needs some attention. But the pastor is certain they can clean it up and volunteers have offered to help.

Both locations (which are next door to each other) have community spaces with couches and places to chill. They hope to get big screen TVs and other comforts. That might be a boon to the teens that seem to use the room now!

Monday the mattresses arrive. Throughout next week generous, skilled contractors will help bring make the spaces more livable, more homey, more comfortable. And we’ll try to keep you up on what’s happening.

Let there be beds

Yesterday Monica had two essential items on her to-do list:

  1. Hire staff
  2. Get beds (mattresses)

There were a hundred little things to do too but those were the biggies. She was working on the top item when midmorning, Monica got a call from someone who knew someone who worked at Abbot Northwestern and maybe had a few washable mattresses to give away. Turns out they had 40 of the 60 mattresses she needed.

Monica called Pastor Becky at Elim Church; she told her about the mattresses. Pastor Becky laughed and said, “you know that’s another sign that this is out of our hands, this effort goes beyond us.”

Earlier this morning, Monica headed to Abbot Northwestern. The mattresses were perfect. Better than perfect, Abbot is even willing to deliver them.

That act of kindness will save money, which helps offset other costs. That act of kindness will expedite the opening of the shelters, which gets people in beds faster. And like most acts of kindness, the ripple effects will extend well beyond what we can see.

The birth of a homeless shelter partnership in Northeast Minneapolis

On December 19, 2019, Governor Walz announced a special $5 million Minnesota Homeless Fund to address unsheltered homelessness.

That spurred a partnership between neighboring churches Elim Church and Strong Tower Parish, Monica Nilsson, who has led shelter and street outreach programs for over 25 years and Tasks Unlimited, a 50-year-old non-profit serving people with mental illness. They were united by core values of hospitality, compassion, respect, dignity and love for all people.

In January, 2020, Richard Shulze Foundation provides startup costs to get the shelters going. And since that time, they have been rushing to get it open. There are beds to be created, staff to be hired, plans to make and deploy.

We’re hoping to use this website to keep up with what’s going on getting the shelters up and running and then what they means to people once we’re operating. We invite you to be part of our community – by donating, volunteering or just cheering us on. Together we can make a difference!

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