#Homes4AllMN housing story: “I watched this place be built. It was my last hope.”

The blog below is cross-posted from Homes for All MN. Homes for All MN collects and shares housing stories to to show lawmakers the challenges Minnesotans are facing when it comes to having a safe, stable and affordable home. By sharing your story, you play a key part in gaining the support and understanding of elected officials and furthering Homes for All’s mission to advance housing stability for all Minnesotans. Katie’s story is part of that effort. Join Katie in sharing your story, and thanks for supporting Homes for All!

For Katie and her three young kids, homelessness became a routine after nine months of moving from shelter to shelter. Once a week, they moved to a different church in the Rochester, hauling all that they had, sticking to a strict schedule of meals and bedtimes, and spending every moment together.

Photo: Katie and her 4-year-old son in one of the Gage East community rooms

“Everyday, we had to be at the church a certain time, we had to eat dinner at a certain time, and in the morning we had to leave at a certain time,” Katie explains. “If we wanted to eat we had to be up at a certain time. Some weeks we’d stay out of Rochester, so we’d be in Eyota or Pine Island. I did not travel lightly because I didn’t want my kids to feel like they didn’t have what they needed. It was really overwhelming for me a lot of the time.”

Even while relying on shelters, Katie was working a job and doing her best to care for her children. But, there were other times when Katie and her kids were even more mobile, lacking even the modest stability of local shelters.

“It was probably worse though, when we were really homeless,” Katie recalled. “We had to live in hotels. There were a few times where we had nowhere to go. We had to go outside. There was nothing I could do.”

Katie and her children were caught in a difficult spot. Not having a home made it difficult for Katie to maintain a job. Not having a job made it difficult for her and her kids to find a home. Katie focused on doing all she could for her children.

“Being completely homeless, there was no way I could have maintained a job,” Katie said. “It would have taken me hours just to take my kid to daycare. And I used to do that when I had to, when I knew it was good for my child. I’d spend four hours just to pick them up and drop them off.”

When Katie found out she and her kids could move into Gage East, a permanent supportive housing complex in Rochester, she was ecstatic. She signed a lease without seeing her apartment, and moved in the same day.

“I watched this place be built and I remember praying and praying to get in,” Katie says. “This was my last hope. I’ve lived in Rochester my whole life, and I wasn’t ready to leave. This place is helping me get ready to leave and maybe find something bigger out there that I can provide for my kids.”

Gage East, located in Rochester, is home to more than 50 homeless families and youth. 

Made possible by Housing Infrastructure Bonds, Gage East provides housing for more than 50 homeless families and youth. The stability and services Gage East provides — including case management and counseling — have made a huge difference in the lives of Katie and her kids.

“I feel safe here,” Katie says. “I don’t want to live here forever but it feels like my home. I’ve never had anything this new before — ever. And they provided furniture and everything you needed. If you didn’t have anything when you moved in, all you had to bring was your clothes.”

Katie has faced domestic abuse and drug addiction. She sees Gage East as an opportunity to work through the trauma she and her family have experienced.

“Right now, I’m not working because I’ve decided to deal with the issues I haven’t dealt with, so I can do what I need to do for my kids,” Katie said. “It’s hard for me not to work, but I know that I need to take care of my issues. I am a recovering drug addict, and I’ve been through abuse, and I’ve been through a lot, but I know that in the world, if you want to do something you can.”

Katie wants others to access the same opportunities she’s found at Gage East.

“I want people to know that we need more places like this because there’s a lot more need,” Katie said. “And if people want things to change and people to change, they have to help us because some of us weren’t given what our parents needed to give us, or whatever we went through has stopped us. We don’t want to be in this situations that we’re in. We want to do better. Some of us just can’t. So we need places like this. It’s really important. Otherwise, they’re not going to see a change, and they’re just going to hurt people. So, I’m grateful for this place.”