A Million Dollar Project: MIWRC and the Kateri Residence

Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center (MIWRC) needs to raise an average of about $20,000 a week between now and July 1, 2018. This fundraising challenge is one of many hurdles the agency faces in its attempt to take over the operation and programming of the Kateri Residence in south Minneapolis, but the agency's stance on the matter is that the services provided are far too valuable for the community to lose. Patina Park, MIWRC's executive director, became familiar with Kateri when she was working on ICWA cases in the early 2000s. The clients she had that were Kateri residents did comparatively well due to the extra support provided by the programming. Beyond providing housing, Kateri offered instruction in life skills such as financial literacy and education, sobriety support, and assistance finding employment to women with few other resources available to them.

In December 2017, St. Stephen's announced the closure of the 45 year old Kateri Residence Program, scheduled for the end of this coming June. The primary reason for closure is financial, but the problems programs like Kateri need to address have also become more challenging. Providing support for alcohol addiction, the primary issue the organization worked to address in past decades, does not require expensive licensing or complex treatment. Now, with many clients struggling with opioid addiction, St. Stephen's has acknowledged that the need has grown beyond their mission and capacity and made the difficult decision that they can no longer maintain the programming, even if they had the funding to do so.

Almost immediately after the announcement, people began reaching out to Patina-- with complementary programming and shared clients, MIWRC appeared well-positioned to help. It wasn't until a meeting at the Women's Foundation, with representatives of the Kateri Residence, United Way, and others in attendance, that she announced MIWRC would attempt to absorb Kateri programming. As far as she knows, MIWRC's is the only proposal to include the continuation of the current programming with or without the physical space.

There are a number of reasons MIWRC is poised to succeed in managing this programming, not least of which is access to more diverse funding sources than St. Stephen's. These include grants available only to native organizations and a billing relationship with the Fond du Lac Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa that allows MIWRC to bill for services through the tribe at a substantially higher rate than through Medicaid, as well as strong relationships with other community organizations. MIWRC also has the capacity to expand current programming, potentially offering healthcare for parents and children, chemical dependency treatment, a group residential housing rate through partnership with tribes or Hennepin County. Ideally, this expansion will result in the creation of a two-year model of care with the potential to be applied in other parts of the state, and beyond.

"Lots of little things need to be done," says Patina, "but this programming is too important to lose." Not having Kateri, she goes on to say, would result in "many more children in foster care, for much longer." Nearly always, when child protection is involved, children are unable to be reunified with their parents until "safe and sustainable" housing is achieved, but parents without custody of children are excluded from many housing resources. This catch-22 means that there is virtually nowhere for mothers to go where they can reunify with their children while involved in an open Child Protection case. Trusted by the county as a safe environment, and offering a two year program to support family stabilization, Kateri offered something rare: hope. One of the biggest struggles when working with families, Patina found, was convincing parents that there was a chance they could get their children back at all.

St. Stephen's will not be making a decision about what to do with the physical space until sometime in February. Whether or not the property, which needs roughly $411,000 in repairs to ensure sustainability, is granted to MIWRC, the agency is committed to continuing the programming. Already strategizing for the "Million Dollar Project", MIWRC plans to raise funds to cover the needed repairs or acquire a new space for the program, with enough left to cover the costs of sustaining programming until new funding sources can catch up. With failure not an option, the agency continues to explore every avenue that could potentially help with the process.