ANOKA, Minn. (KMSP) - Once shuttered and on the list to be torn down, historic cottages in Anoka are now home to veterans and their families, still healing from the silent wounds of war. A community of volunteers made it all possible.
Veterans are now moving into the first of three cottages being renovated on the grounds of the old Anoka State Hospital.
In the early 1900s, they were known as Minnesota’s first asylum for the insane. They sat dark and vacant for decades, home to only dust, mold, and graffiti. After a lengthy and passionate fight over the land, they'll now serve a new purpose: providing a place for veterans to heal with honor.
"There's no federal money, no state money and no county money,” Senator Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said. “This is all done by the people."
In just under two months, more than 300 volunteers, dedicated their time, energy, and resources into getting the structures suitable for living.
“It's based on family, it’s based on love,” said Melony Butler of Eagles Healing Nest. “These houses are built with love.”
Butler has taken this project under her wings. She runs the non-profit, Eagle’s Healing Nest in Sauk Centre. She’s made it her life’s work to make sure veterans who are failed by the system are getting what they need.
"We don’t allow red tape,” she said. “To me that’s bureaucratic bull. Twenty-two veterans each day take their lives. Vietnam veterans at the highest rate. They have no home, they are caught up in a system and they aren’t getting benefits.”
Veterans living at Eagles Healing Nest Anoka will get the same help. They'll commit to being drug and alcohol free and will take part in programs designed to bring light during dark times.
“The buildings can get fixed up and so can the men and the women,” Abeler said. “Are either lost causes? We say no. Let’s help them both live again.
Volunteers are still needed to fix up the two other cottages, expected to be open by March.
Once they’re cleaned up, 90 veterans and their families will be living there.