Dale Street Place provides needed housing option

In St. Paul, people coping with mental illness and chemical dependency have a newly renovated place to call home. Two years and $12.5 million later, the Redeemer Arms Apartments have become Dale Street Place Apartments.

Photo courtesy of Community Housing Development CorporationThe apartments provide stable, supportive housing for adults with mental illness or chemical dependency issues. A large crowd celebrated the building reopening Oct. 23. Many toured the renovated structure to see newly remodeled apartments, improved community spaces and an exercise room. Community Housing Development Corporation bought the building n 2011.

Community Housing Development Corporation is the largest nonprofit provider of affordable housing in Minnesota, as owner of more than 2,780 apartments. Dale Street Place has 150 apartment units, 108 efficiency units and 42 one-bedroom units. Rents range from $455 to $780. Low-income residents living in the building’s 82 Section 8 units pay 30 percent of their income, rather than a fixed rate.

The apartments are for people who have experienced or who are at risk of experiencing long-term homelessness. Residents must either have a disability and/or be at least 62 years old. Residents must earn less than $17,640 per year. Most earn less than $10,000 per year.

Stable homes for adults with mental illness and chemical dependency remain an urgent need in the Twin Cities, according to supporters of Dale Street Place. Three out of four homeless adults surveyed by Wilder Research in 2009 reported at least one of three major health issues: mental illness, substance abuse disorder, or a chronic physical health condition.

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer has been involved in the facility since it opened in 1964. Redeemer Arms was originally built as a nursing home. It later housed people with disabilities. Some of the charter board members for the housing project are still active in the church congregation, said Rev. Jim Erlandson, pastor at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

The mission of providing quality housing continues with the new ownership, Erlandson said. The church will have a community advisory board, to stay involved with the apartment building. “We’re still with you and want you to be with us.”

Bret Byfield, a social workers and former Redeemer Arms Board member, said that the renovation has created a place “where it’s possible to live well.” Byfield praised the residents of Dale Street Place, who had to live through a long period of building renovation.

The renovation includes new building landscaping, resurfaced parking lot, renovated offices, new boiler and mechanical systems, energy-efficient and safe kitchens, upgrades ventilation, walls, flooring and plumbing. Units have ample closet space with shelves for residents’ belongings.

Among the sources of funding for the renovation are the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, at $5.8 million and City of St. Paul at $1 million.

The Dale Street Place is a partnership between residents, the developer and programs that make the apartments affordable, said Mary Tingerthal, Commissioner of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. She said residents are fortunate to have an owner and developer who is ensuring that the housing is well managed. BDC Management will operate the building.

Tingerthal also said that retaining the apartment building as long-income housing helps meet a huge need for supportive housing. State officials have a goal of providing 4,000 supportive housing units. Next year they will hit the 3,800-unit mark.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the sale and renovation of Dale Street Place shows a commitment to some of the community’s most vulnerable residents. He said it would have been easy for the building to be sold and redeveloped as market-rate housing, but that is not what the community is about. “This about making sure that all are welcome,” he said.

“This is a place of hope,” said Fran Lesicko, a consulting psychologist who works with Dale Street Place residents. She said stable housing and support services will help the residents improve their lives. Because of their disabilities, many residents would have trouble finding housing elsewhere.

Lesicko said Dale Street Place provides badly needed affordable and supportive housing. “I grew up in Texas,” she said, “and it just astounds me that people in Minnesota are homeless during the winter.”

Dale Street Place has three service coordinators and an adult mental health case manager from Ramsey County/South Metro Human Services. Staff work with residents to help them maintain their housing, learn independent living skills, and participate in groups.

Part of the building’s lower level is leased by the nonprofit agency People Inc. for its APOLLO Resource Center. This program serves residents and nonresidents, offering a variety of activities that help people learn independent living skills.

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