The nonprofit Listening House, which closed its Freedom House at 296 W. Seventh St. in May, hopes to relocate the drop-in day shelter to the shuttered Red’s Savoy restaurant building on East Seventh Street and Lafayette Road.

The West Seventh/Fort Road Federation signed on as a supporter of the relocation on June 13. The CapitolRiver Council, City Council members Rebecca Noecker and Mitra Jalali, and Senator Sandy Pappas also support the move.

Sara Fleetham of Listening House is leading the efforts to locate and fund the new drop-in shelter for people who are homeless. A mix of federal, state, local and private dollars is being sought.

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Freedom House
The former home of Freedom House at 296 W. Seventh St.

In supporting the move, Federation board members said there is a need for day shelter space. “We have experience with Listening House and we’ve seen what’s happened when we don’t have the (day shelter) space,” said district council member Casey Carmody.

The former fire station building that was home to Freedom House has been the subject of burglary, vandalism and arson since the program moved out. The city’s Fire Department wants to eventually reoccupy the station, citing increased calls to the downtown area.

Listening House began in downtown in 1983 and has been at First Lutheran Church in Dayton’s Bluff for several years. Being in the church limits the day shelter to weekday hours. Fleetham said the new location offers the option for weekend hours.

The former fire station building that was home to Freedom House has been the subject of burglary, vandalism and arson since the program moved out. The city’s Fire Department wants to eventually reoccupy the station, citing increased calls to the downtown area.

Freedom House opened on West Seventh Street in January 2021 and closed last month after COVID-19 funding ran out. It offered a space for people to relax, as well as restrooms, showers, food and connections to social services. The space was touted as especially needed as the pandemic shut down many other day shelter options, including libraries and recreation centers.

The behavior of some Freedom House patrons roiled the Seven Corners hospitality district and the adjacent Irvine Park residential neighborhood. Neighbors complained of aggressive panhandling, public intoxication, drug use, theft and vandalism.

Several neighbors eventually sued for damages as well as a suspension of Freedom House’s services. A Ramsey County District Court judge issued an order in the spring saying that the city did not follow proper procedures before allowing Freedom House to open there. The court order gave the city and Listening House 45 days to correct the error, find a new location for the shelter or find other ways to provide equivalent services.

— Jane McClure

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