The halls of the Provincial House are ringing with the sounds of children on this early morning in September. Families are finishing up breakfast in the dining room and children are racing to catch the school bus. One young guest asks, “What’s for dinner tonight?” Staff reply, “Chef is making spaghetti and meatballs!” She beams in return: “My favorite!”
“This child was really missing that meal she most loved before her family experienced homelessness,” says Sara Liegl, director of Project Home. “We try to do everything to make our guests feel at home.”
It has been six months since Interfaith Action moved its emergency family shelter into the Provincial House through a partnership with Ramsey County and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. In just six months, the lovely building at 1880 Randolph Avenue has served as a stable, welcoming home for more than 70 families (including 153 children and 88 adults) who are seeking the stability and support they need to change the trajectory of their lives.
“The Provincial House is located in a wonderful neighborhood and our families love having a new playground where they can spend time together safely outside,” says Sara. “We are also so grateful for the genuine hospitality residents and businesses are showing our staff and guests.”
Kathy Carruth, executive director of the Highland District Council (HDC), says, “We support Project Home and are happy to welcome families to our neighborhood.” In June, the HDS hosted a blood drive and collected more than $300 worth of household items and personal hygiene items for Project Home guests.
Congregations, too, are stepping up to help. For example, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, which pre-pandemic had hosted Project Home during the month of August, gathered volunteers from its church and five partner churches to serve lunch and dinner every weekend in August. “Congregational volunteerism is still core to our success,” says Sara. “We look forward to welcoming more congregations into this work.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph, the gracious neighbors next door, are frequent visitors and volunteers, making welcome baskets for new families and stopping by the playground to chat with families.
The numbers of shelter bed-nights provided by Project Home has grown substantially with the changes since the pandemic forced a change in the service model, increasing Project Home’s capacity from 40 to 100 individuals. Last year, Project Home shelter bed-nights grew 85%, from 10,597 to 19,602.
“We are deeply grateful to the Sisters, Ramsey County, the neighbors, and our incredible staff and volunteers for their resilience and persistence, no matter the challenges of this pandemic,” says Interfaith Action executive director Randi Roth. “With onsite rapid exit caseworkers, partnerships with St. Paul Public Schools’ Project Reach and St. Catherine’s University, and gifted staff who connect our families to the support they truly need, we are building economic mobility, one family at a time.”