St. Stephen’s Shelter Tour

St. Stephen’s Shelter at 22nd and Clinton is in its 30th year of sheltering 44 homeless men every night. The site of the first of three shelter tours, sponsored by Downtown Congregations to End Homelessness, it was visited last Sunday by people interested in learning more about how homeless people live.

Located in the basement under St. Stephen’s Catholic Church offices, the shelter offers military surplus bunks dating from World War II, in rooms resembling a dormitory (or barracks). It provides access from 5:30 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. nightly to sober men, emphasizing sobriety as support for ending addictions as well as for avoiding trouble during their stay.

The shelter operates a free store in the former church garage, where varieties of clothing and toiletries are offered after contributed items are sorted. A smaller room, originally used for the store, is now a lounge where shelter occupants are welcomed to gather at night to talk or watch TV. Across the street, in the basement of St. Stephen’s school, is the Loaves and Fishes program, where volunteering groups from various churches offer evening meals each week night.

A visitor’s highlight at the shelter is the art in two rooms resembling an unfurnished, otherwise undecorated gallery, its walls full of impressive work. One group of art was supplied by students from the nearby Minneapolis College of Art & Design, who enrich volunteer support for the shelter. The second room, still more impressive artistically, contains three mural-sized works by a highly qualified but homeless Native American artist who had been arrested and convicted for allegedly urinating in the street and was sentenced to community service at the shelter. His service was to paint three masterpieces, two of them featuring Indigenous spiritual themes.

St. Stephen’s Shelter, which is privately funded, also is now working with a Lutheran church in North Minneapolis to enable offering additional space for homeless men, funded by Hennepin County.

Shelter tours continue the next two weeks – Nov. 13 at the People Serving People family shelter, and Nov. 20 at the Youth Link facility.

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