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The Landing MN lands new role at day center

City taps nonprofit to help operation providing day center for people facing homelessness.

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Gail Greenwood, with The Landing MN, gets a Rochester Day Center guest something to drink Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, at The Salvation Army in Rochester. The Landing MN recently took over operations of the Day Center during the evenings and on weekends. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Staff and volunteers from The Landing MN have been a common sight outside Rochester’s day center for people facing homelessness since it opened in the Mayo Civic Center.

When it moved to the Salvation Army’s day center at 115 First Ave. NE, The Landing followed in its Mobile Outreach Unit, providing donated clothing, food, words of encouragement, and the potential to tap into housing programs.

Now, the staff and volunteers have taken their work indoors, signing a contract with the city to man the day center a few hours each weekday and throughout each weekend.

“The nonprofits that are in that space are able to provide a high level of resources,” said Rochester Library Director Audrey Betcher, whose staff worked with the city’s emergency operations team to create the day center program in late March.

When the operation transitioned to the Salvation Army site earlier this month, the new hosts took over weekday operations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., leaving the city to fill gaps until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends.

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A commitment of up to $400,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds to support the operation through Dec. 15 made way for the city team to seek outside help with staffing the facility, and Dan Fifield, co-founder of The Landing MN, said it was a perfect fit for his team.

“We’ve hired a couple part-time employees that are familiar with the population and have worked with them in the past,” he said, adding that the new temporary employees were looking for work after their hours were cut elsewhere as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fifield said he and Alex Hurlebaus, The Landing’s director of social services, are leading the evening and weekend operations, an effort that has also been relying on help from volunteers recruited through the organization’s Facebook page .

During the weekend, which was The Landing’s second on duty, Fifield said the center saw 89 individuals on Saturday and 76 on Sunday. He estimated at least 75 percent of them were unsheltered homeless people, meaning they don’t have a regular place to sleep at night.

The day center provides a place to secure a meal or two and potentially tap into a variety of services. Fifield said it means people are coming and going throughout the day, so average occupancy is between 12 to 20 people in a space that safely allows up to 30 at any one time.

Cathy Norgard, the Salvation Army social services director, said the day center operations have run well in connection to the organization’s other services and activities since operations shifted to the First Avenue site.

“It’s pretty seamless,” she said, adding that it provides opportunity for different agencies to work together and develop new partnerships.

State funding related to providing shelter and services for people facing homelessness in the pandemic funded the local day center operations through July, and Betcher said the city hasn’t yet applied for August reimbursement.

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She said the contract with The Landing runs through Oct. 31 and could tap into a portion of the city’s funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, if needed, as the city maintains oversight of the operation as an emergency response.

“We’ll continue to see how that goes and see where we go next,” she said.

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Gail Greenwood, with The Landing MN, talks with a Rochester Day Center guest Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, at The Salvation Army in Rochester. The Landing MN recently took over operations of the Day Center during the evenings and on weekends. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSTHE LANDING MNAUDREY BETCHERCORONAVIRUS
Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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