The Salvation Army in Brainerd, which plans to construct a homeless shelter, asked the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday for its support.
Capt. Amy Ferguson of the Salvation Army informed the board of its plans. The Salvation Army plans to purchase the old WJJY building on Front Street and will tear it down to build a shelter.
The shelter, located near the Salvation Army headquarters, will have 10-15 cots for single males and two larger rooms that could host two families. Ferguson hopes the shelter will be up and running within the next two years.
The Salvation Army began looking at building a shelter because the current voucher system for the homeless has become difficult. Currently, the Salvation Army provides a one-night voucher to a homeless person to stay at an area motel. Ferguson said each year it has become harder because the motels are beginning to not accept the vouchers.
Ferguson said they spend about $9,500 in vouchers a year.
The shelter would be constructed through the Salvation Army resources and fund-raising monies. The shelter would be supervised at night and residents would be expected to leave during the day.
Having the shelter near the Salvation Army headquarters would allow direct casework and intervention with the shelter residents, said Ferguson.
Brainerd Mayor James Wallin and Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc have expressed support for the project, Ferguson said.
Wallin said, in an interview this morning, that he sees a need for a homeless shelter in the community. In fact, he said on Tuesday he received a phone call from a mother and son who were evicted from their place and had no where to go.
The county board remained neutral in regard to the request for support of the project.
Commissioner Terry Sluss said he is concerned there was no public debate on having a homeless shelter in the county and he'd like to see what the community thinks. He also questioned the zoning on the proposed property.
"It's too preliminary with this board to go forward," he said.
Human Services Director Susan Beck said she is concerned the shelter may attract transient individuals to the community.
"I have also discussed my concerns that residents not create an additional drain on already stretched county social service resources," said Beck. "The Fergusons have been open and receptive to the various concerns."
Beck said the underlying issue of building a shelter is affordable housing.
"I have questioned the cost-effectiveness of funding bricks and mortar versus just paying for housing," she said.
Beck said another concern is the close proximity the shelter would be to the downtown bars in Brainerd.
Ferguson said they are in the beginning planning stage and hope to purchase the property on Front Street as soon as possible.
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