Stepping Stone homeless shelter is moving Sept. 1

Stepping Stone Emergency Housing, the only adult homeless shelter in Anoka County, will be moving to a new Anoka location Sept. 1.

The Cronin Building, an empty building now owned by Anoka County on the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center grounds, will provide room for 60 beds, increasing the facility’s bed space from 20 beds in its current location.

Prior to the Sept. 1 move, the entire month of August will be focused on bringing the new facility up to live-in conditions.

“Stepping Stone needs a large number of generous volunteers from the Anoka County and surrounding communities to contribute their time, household items and cash donations to this long awaited move,” said Julie Jeppson, volunteer coordinator, Stepping Stone Emergency Housing.

“Like us on Facebook and visit our website at www.steppingstoneeh.org to see the various times and activities for volunteering, plus an extensive list of items for donations, both new or very gently used.”

Cash donations can also be made on the website, Jeppson said.

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.

The new space will require more staff and money to operate, so the shelter has applied for grants from local businesses, according to Heather Ries, Stepping Stone executive director.

One of those local businesses, Home Depot, has already provided monetary and equipment support for the move, Ries said.

To provide for the increased staffing needed to run the ever-expanding shelter, Stepping Stone is already in the process of becoming a “teaching shelter,” one that will provide opportunities for post secondary students to learn and gain educational credit through internships with the shelter, she said.

Anoka County has nearly 700 homeless adults, according to the county’s annual survey.

SSEH served 190 of these 700 homeless adults in 2011. The number of homeless clients served and their ability to move successfully to independent living, jobs and schooling has dramatically increased since 2010, according to Ries.

“This move to the Cronin Building will provide larger quarters to support the ever-growing number of homeless that, through family dysfunction, foreclosure, job loss and return from military duty overseas, turn to SSEH for a warm and safe place to live and earn independence once more,” Ries said.

Residents of the shelter are assigned a 90-day program that teaches life skills through education and one-on-one mentoring, along with post-graduate support after leaving the shelter, she said.

“Of those who complete the program, 56 percent go on to find independent living, get jobs and/or go back to college, Ries said.

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