Shelter Development Proceeding in Saint Cloud

Thanks to Minnesota Housing for underwriting funds that enable us to spend time developing stories about housing needs and solutions. 

From a discussion with Avivo’s John Tribbett

Former Avivo administrator Emily Bastien inside Avivo Village in Minneapolis (photo by Sarah Whiting)

Due to legislative funding in 2023, the Department of Human Services has grants to cover the costs of food shelves and emergency shelters across the state. Avivo, which operates the emergency temporary housing shelter called Avivo Village in Minneapolis, applied for a $7.65 million grant to build another facility in Saint Cloud.

A commercial area with big box stores, strip malls, and restaurants was identified as a good location for a village of 56 independent units. Many people in the community were supportive. Some were not. The delay from opposition was putting the project in danger of not moving ahead. Says long-time housing advocate John Tribbett, “Some general opposition is what we come to expect, unfortunately — the assumption that people who are experiencing homelessness are going to bring problems to the neighborhood or community. There are always concerns to address — some because of the lack of familiarity or education or understanding of the realities that people have experienced that might cause them to be homeless.”

In his decade in street outreach, “I would be hard pressed to find a time that I felt in danger from a person experiencing homelessness. Most often they are the people who are victims to predatory behavior, and not the people actually causing the problem and harm,” Tribbet says. “There are plenty of people we work with and encounter in our lives who are working and sleeping in their cars, or in shelters. In our culture, we are often stuck in black-and- white thinking, which leads us to be fearful about things we don’t fully understand.”

Avivo was invited to build in Saint Cloud because of increased needs. “Wages are not keeping pace with everything, including that costs are increasing dramatically for everyone, which creates large systemic and structural issues,” Tribbett says. “The reality in 2024 is that communities around the country, even outside the larger metro areas, are experiencing issues that traditionally were in the larger urban centers.”

Many local business leaders in the neighborhood opposed the construction, but community members who supported the project pushed back.

After a nearly 4.5-hour public conversation, the city council of Saint Cloud approved a 20-year lease by a 5–2 vote. The building could be ready in early 2025