Since 1973 the Kateri Residence in Phillips has been a home to Native American women recovering from addiction. Hundreds have passed through its doors, often with children in tow, working toward sobriety, family reunification, and longterm housing over the course of a two-year program. Life there is embedded with Native American cultural practices, starting with morning meditation and the burning of sage.
On Friday, staff heard some bleak news from St. Stephen's Human Services, which runs the program. Kateri will no longer accept new clients, and will permanently close in June 2018 due to budget contraints.
"There really aren't any other options like Kateri," says Chanda Palacios, an addictions counselor at the Minnesota Indian Women's Center who worked at Kateri from 2001 to 2014.
"What I see a lot of is young women, they end up with open child protection cases and then they might get sent to treatment, and then when they complete an in-patient treatment they really don't have safe or sober housing they can go back to, to get their children back. Kateri has been the mainstay for that for quite some time now. It's really a loss to the community."
Kateri is funded through the Minnesota Department of Human Services' Group Residential Housing (GRH) program. While it costs on average $680,000 a year to operate Kateri, allocations from the state have fallen short over the past decade, averaging $500,000 a year. Coupled with the increasing structural disrepair of Kateri's century-old building, St. Stephen's can no longer afford to keep the doors open.
"Nobody wants to fund transitional housing anymore. They want to fund permanent, supportive housing, and that's great, but then Kateri is not in line any longer with those priorities," says executive director Gail Dorfman.
St. Stephen's has redirected individual donations to Kateri, applied for foundation money, and sent letters to some of Minnesota's wealthier tribes, she says. Still, she hasn't been able to come up with enough to fill that gap.
The goal now is to find rentals for Kateri's current residents before June 2018, and help staff move into other positions at St. Stephen's, Dorfman says. She promises no one will be left to the streets.
She hopes that St. Stephen's will be able to partner with a non-profit housing developer who could rehabilitate the building into permanent affordable housing for Native Americans.
"We also want to celebrate Kateri," Dorfman says. "The staff who have worked there, the many people who have gone through those doors and turned their lives around, who have reunified with their children, we're really proud of that legacy.