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Project Home Family Shelter at the Provincial House FAQ
Below are answers to commonly asked questions about Project Home’s family shelter at the Provincial House.
Project Home programming
How does Project Home operate?
Project Home, a program of Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul, has been providing overnight shelter to families experiencing homelessness for more than 23 years, along with day shelter services for more than a year. Additionally, the program’s rapid exit case management services help families achieve both stability and economic mobility through support to find permanent, affordable housing and employment opportunities.
Before the pandemic, Project Home partnered with dozens of churches, synagogues, schools and thousands of volunteers to provide families facing homelessness with clean, safe overnight shelter until stable housing could be secured. Two different local faith communities would host the organization monthly and provide space for 40 beds for families with minor children. A large volunteer core provided support for the Project Home program.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, area faith communities could understandably no longer host guests. Since then, Project Home families have been staying temporarily at the First Baptist Church and at a downtown Saint Paul hotel in safe, socially distanced spaces. However, both of these sites were temporary solutions. The Provincial House allows our community to significantly reduce lengthy shelter waits for families experiencing homelessness.
Who does Project Home serve?
Project Home serves families who have minor children in their care, most of whom come from Saint Paul and the surrounding area. Nearly 90% of the children are aged 12 and younger. Last year Project Home served 71 families. Since the move to the central downtown Saint Paul hotel location, the program has been able to double its capacity and can now shelter 22 families at any given time.
Racial disparities are clear and evident in the homelessness challenge. In 2019, 91% of Project Home guests identified as people of color or Indigenous and 75% of guests identified as Black. While no two experiences are the same, some of the most common factors in families experiencing homelessness include a lack of affordable housing, a loss of a job or cut in hours, a family health crisis, and loss of affordable, reliable childcare.
How do families access Project Home programming?
Project Home is a referral-only service that operates as part of the Ramsey County Continuum of Care network and receives direct referrals from the county team, who maintain a waiting list of families in need of emergency shelter. When Project Home has open space, staff coordinate with the county to fill the opening. There are dozens of families on this waiting list at a time.
Ramsey County works with a variety of local agencies to provide resources for people who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of becoming homeless or need emergency assistance to stay in their homes. Learn more about referral services.
What types of services are offered at Project Home?
Project Home’s top priority is to help families quickly regain permanent housing stability through holistic programming. Immediate services include supplying clean, comfortable places to sleep; three daily meals; assistance in accessing affordable childcare/childcare grants; help navigating education and/or distance learning for children; and support for parenting.
More long-term programming services address financial security and the promotion of economic opportunity. Families are required to participate in the Project Home budget and savings program, where they work with the shelter manager to create a budget, learn how to access their credit score, and gain practical knowledge in budgeting and managing tight household incomes.
Project Home programming has proved successful. In the past year, even during the pandemic, the rapid exit team was able to support the move of 44% of families to secure, positive housing destinations.
Where do children at Project Home play?
The Provincial House has a large space on the top floor with high ceilings and big windows that is a perfect place for kids to play indoors. While there isn’t any playground equipment on the property currently, children under the supervision of their parents can play outside in a designated play space on the campus.
How do students do distance learning at the Provincial House?
Project Home works closely with local school districts to ensure students have the technology they need for distance learning. Schools have provided laptops, and the Provincial House has good WiFi on every floor that can accommodate the bandwidth needed.
What early learning opportunities are available for younger children?
Project Home has dedicated staff members who assist with early learning programming on site three days a week. This programming is expected to be expanded after the pandemic is over. Staff work closely with the Saint Paul School District’s shelter liaison and Project Reach to ensure that young children have access to pre-K and other early learning programs. Additionally, Project Home connects families with community events and programs outside of the shelter, so that families can stay active, supported, and involved once they move into their own housing.
During non-pandemic times, where do the children go to school?
Project Home children attend school throughout Ramsey County, with transportation provided by the school district(s). Children may occasionally attend school in other counties where they previously lived. Children also have access to the Saint Paul Public School REACH program, where a school-shelter liaison works with families on any school connection challenges or other special needs, along with other academic tutors available to children four nights per week.
Project details and community engagement
How many families stay at the Provincial House?
We serve approximately 20 families at the Provincial House. The amount of time each family needs to get back on their feet varies; some need several months, while others only need a few weeks. Last year, the average length of stay at Project Home was two to three months.
How many staff and volunteers operate onsite at any given time?
A minimum of two staff are on site at any given time. During weekday hours, all programming staff (approximately 10 people) are also on site. Due to COVID-19 protocols, Project Home is currently limiting outside volunteer opportunities to meal donation deliveries, in-kind donation deliveries and limited assistance with the children’s program.
How does Project Home at the Provincial House deal with drugs, alcohol and/or security issues?
Project Home has a strict policy against drugs and alcohol, with a “staged consequences” process in place for violations. However, if the issue is egregious, it would involve immediate dismissal.
Visitors are not allowed on the property at any time. Families in shelter are welcome to visit friends or family, but they would not be able to have guests at the shelter.
How long will Project Home operate at the Provincial House?
The initial lease agreement between Interfaith Action and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet goes through April 30, 2022.
Can nearby bus stops be improved to ensure families have adequate access to transit?
Ramsey County and the City of Saint Paul are working with Metro Transit and other relevant agencies to ensure that nearby bus stops are adequate to meet the needs of Project Home guests.
Is the conditional use permit to be limited just to the Project Home family shelter?
The conditional use permit is limited to the plan presented by Interfaith Action to the Sisters of St. Joseph. The Sisters of St. Joseph have no plans to utilize the building for any other new use or emergency shelter. Any changes in use would require a new permit application and reviewal with the City of Saint Paul.
How many people are allowed in this facility by the certificate of occupancy?
The Provincial House is a grade A multi-family residential building with a certificate of occupancy of 54 units. The current certificate of occupancy does not state how many people are allowed in the facility, but the conditional use permit allows between 22-30 families. Interfaith Action and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet will work together over the next few months to determine the number of families that can be accommodated. Currently, on any given day, 20 families live at the Project Home family shelter.
What is your COVID protocol at the Provincial House?
Project Home programming follows the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines established for homeless shelters, which includes daily health checks of staff and guests, hand sanitizer stations, masks in hallways and common rooms, social distancing, sanitizing of high-touch surfaces multiple times per day, and family tables spaced six feet apart in our dining room.
Interfaith Action has detailed plans in place for when/if a family should test positive for COVID. These plans include how shelter care will be provided and by which staff, what personal protective equipment (PPE) will be used, how linens and meals will be handled, how medical staff will be involved if necessary, where children would go if a parent or guardian becomes too sick to care for them, etc.
Has Project Home ever experienced any crime at its sites?
The Saint Paul Police Department reports that there is no evidence of an increase in crime rates in neighborhoods surrounding shelters. Throughout its 23 years, Project Home has only had one minor incident – a theft of a wallet. Each adult guest is required to go through a background check. Guest families have not posed any danger to others in the churches, synagogues or other spaces in which the program has been located.
Who provides security services?
Project Home has trained staff on site to deal with matters regarding guest families. Senior management staff are always on call for the onsite staff to reach for assistance, if needed.
How can community members assist?
There will be more opportunities for volunteers and donors to engage with Project Home programming at the Provincial House when it is safe to do so after the pandemic. Interfaith Action is accepting donations of items such as gently used towels, hygienic supplies, socks, underwear, etc. Express your interest in volunteering or donating items through Interfaith Action's interest form.
How many people are sleeping outside in Saint Paul?
An estimated 300 people are currently sleeping outside each night in the City of Saint Paul. Through both short-term and long-term solutions implemented with the support of various public and private partners, our end goal is to get everyone off the street and safely inside.
What has been the effect on encampments?
The goal is for fewer people to be living in unsheltered and outdoors during winter months. This shelter provides beds to help shelter those who are currently living outdoors or in places not suitable for human habitation, like cars, storage units, etc.
Are undocumented people experiencing homelessness at an increased risk of being exposed, arrested or deported?
Ramsey County does not ask or screen individuals for their immigration status nor do we provide documentation to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We do not report data or information about any of our residents to any federal law enforcement agencies unless there is a valid warrant that mandates us to do so. In fact, Ramsey County provides a welcoming and inclusive environment for all immigrants of our community including information, support, legal defense, resources and wraparound services regardless of status. Anyone who has not violated laws or committed felonies and is in need of a safe, warm place to rest is invited to stay at county shelter facilities.
How is Ramsey County addressing the needs of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness?
Ramsey County counts on nonprofit providers including Lutheran Social Services, Salvation Army and Face to Face to deliver youth shelter services with some federal funding provided by Heading Home Ramsey. The county has started the Youth Ambassador Program, a new pilot project in collaboration with High School of the Recording Arts that trains youth as mentors to help spread their expertise on benefits and housing to their peers. Ramsey County is finalizing a series of actionable recommendations for how the county can get more involved in the youth homelessness network.
This is a short-term solution. What long-term solutions are the county investing in to help address homelessness?
Over the past several years, the county has been working closely with a network of government, nonprofit, public safety, business and other community partners on the unsheltered homelessness crisis. This includes providing long-term shelter users with stable housing, connecting unsheltered individuals with resources and offering low-barrier emergency shelter during winter months.
Much still needs to be done, and the county is actively advocating for additional funding from the state to support these efforts. More options for moving out of homelessness and into affordable housing are needed across the state.