Provincial House, a shelter for up to 30 homeless families at 1880 Randolph Ave., has received $827,244 from the city of Saint Paul’s Housing Trust Fund to keep it open through March 2023. The Saint Paul City Council, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, approved the allocation on June 22. Had the funding not been awarded, Provincial House would have closed at the end of June.

Project Home
Provincial House at 1880 Randolph Ave.

Provincial House is owned by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. It served for many years as a residence for the religious order. For the past 15 months, it has been used by Interfaith Action as a round-the-clock shelter for families.

Interfaith Action’s Project Home has provided an overnight shelter for families for the past 25 years at local churches and schools. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the program into hotels and then Provincial House. Funding for Project Home and other shelters was provided through federal pandemic-relief funds, but those are running out.

The new allocation will be transferred from the city to Ramsey County, which oversees shelter programs. The city had earlier earmarked the money for preserving naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH), but because of a staff transition, that program is not yet ready.

   

“Our need is urgent,” said Saint Paul Planning and Economic Development director Nicolle Goodman. The NOAH program will be brought back in the future, she added.

Provincial House has a capacity of about 100 people or 30 families. In 2021 the program served 153 adults and 239 children as they waited for permanent housing.

Provincial House has been a great fit for Project Home, according to its director, Sara Liegl. For most of its history, Project Home would from one host church or school to another each month. “Many know us as the little church basement program,” Liegl said. But with the onset of the pandemic, “we had to totally change our model,” she added.

 

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The move to a permanent facility has been a great benefit. The families have private rooms in which to stay rather than spaces separated by cardboard dividers. They can lock their door, and they have beds instead of cots or air mattresses.

“The families are thriving in our program,” Liegl said. Project Home is currently serving 23 families, she added, or a total of 78 adults and children. Twenty-three of the children are age 5 and under, and seven are younger than 3.

City Council member Chris Tolbert, whose Ward 3 includes Provincial House, has been seeking a way to keep the family shelter open for the past few months. “It’s a great need,” he said.

Other council members agreed, but had questions about the long-term future of the family shelter. They want to work with Ramsey County and Interfaith Action for ongoing funding. “We’ve got to find a way to make this a permanent facility,” said Ward 2 City Council member Rebecca Noecker.

Governor Tim Walz has proposed giving Ramsey County $6 million in unspent pandemic relief funds to help meet the needs of homeless shelters. State lawmakers had sought $14.5 million for this purpose, noting that people who become homeless come to Ramsey County from other areas of the state to find shelter. However, the Legislature adjourned this spring without passing a supplemental budget for these programs.

— Jane McClure

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