Homeless shelter fundraising underway

By Paul Groessel

Sun POST Newspapers


Organizing and planning for a homeless youth facility in Brooklyn Park has progressed since the idea left the ground in August.

On Jan. 13, Avenues for Homeless Youth, which runs a homeless shelter in north Minneapolis, and the city of Brooklyn Park each agreed to help establish a facility that will host 8-10 homeless youth in the northwest suburbs. There are many logistical details to work out, organizers say, but the memorandums describe who will be responsible for certain tasks should the shelter become a reality.

Deb Loon, executive director of Avenues for Homeless Youth, said she hopes to have a shelter open and operating by September.

“In the meantime of course, we have a bunch of things to do,” she said.

The memorandum is a preliminary, non-binding agreement that outlines some expectations for the city and the nonprofit, according to a city staff report.

The city’s Economic Development Authority will purchase, rehabilitate and own a building that it will lease to Avenues for Homeless Youth, according to the preliminary agreement. Avenues for Homeless Youth will operate and maintain the homeless youth facility and retain any required licenses.

A building has not been chosen, but the city is considering both location and funding options, said Kim Berggren, Brooklyn Park’s housing and development manager. Using excess Tax Increment Financing funds that can only be used for affordable housing is one of the funding options, she said.

The agreement is an early stage of the process, but fundraising groundwork is underway.

To run the facility 24-hours a day, seven days per week, the total annual operational cost would be $600,000, according to Loon.

These are not one-time funds, she said. The $600,000 would be the annual operational cost, which poses a fundraising challenge.

Avenues for Homeless Youth operates a 21-bed facility in north Minneapolis that raises about $1.2 million per year, Loon said.

“So we’ve got experience doing this, but it is certainly no small task,” she said. “ … But we believe there is capacity in the community, and we will get it done.”

Those operational costs could be covered through public funds and private donations, Loon said.

In the public realm, a state grant has already been secured, Loon said, and Avenues for Homeless Youth has applied for a federal grant. Organizers have also requested county funding, and will seek various cities’ Community Development Block Grants, which range from $5,000 to $10,000 each.

As for private donations, Loon has helped form a community fundraising committee, which will seek donations from faith communities, individuals and businesses in the northwest suburbs. In December, Loon presented the idea to approximately 25 faith communities during a Brooklyn Area Ministerial Alliance meeting, she said.

“So that’s a really amazing start from our perspective,” Loon said.

The private donation target is $150,000, she said.

Among others whom Loon has credited with early organizing efforts, Rev. Rachel Morey of Brooklyn Mosaic United Methodist Church said the area churches’ commitments thus far have been critical.

“There is really a movement here to make this happen,” she said.

Morey helped recruit long-time professional fundraiser Lisa Jacobson, who credited Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeffrey Lunde for his organizing efforts.

Covering the ongoing operational expenses could be a challenge, she said. They do not want to see the shelter open for one year and then have to close its doors because of a lack of funding. So, the fundraising approach will emphasize sustainability, according to Jacobson.

“It’s going to take people in the community to get their arms around these kids through this project,” she said.

Anyone interested in joining the Brooklyn Avenues Fundraising Committee can contact Jacobson at [email protected]


Contact Paul Groessel at [email protected]