Men's homeless shelter in Hastings set to close

A shelter for homeless men in Dakota County is closing its doors.

Dozens of men who live at the Cochran House in Hastings are now securing other housing opportunities. 

Louie Bennejam just got out of prison. He's been living at the Cochran House for about a month.

"This is my miracle room,” said Bennejam. “This is where I'm learning how to grow, live, and move on and be a better person." 

Thanks to the support and resources from shelter staff, his family and his friends, he'll soon have keys to his own place. It’s an exciting milestone, but Bennejam says his success is met with a feeling of apprehension for his friends - the 31 other homeless men also living at the shelter. 

"What are we going to do?” said Clifford Terrell, another resident at the Cochran House. “This place to me is a need, it definitely is a need."

The shelter at the Cochran House is having financial problems and will close in December, just as the cold hits.

Kenny Johnson, Group Residential House Coordinator, says the shelter has had multiple years of net loss. Expenses to keep the shelter running continue to grow, and Johnson says the shelter hasn’t been able to secure as much grant funding as in years past.

“It'll be a shame for the community to let this shelter close because of the great need of homes for the homeless,” Johnson said. “This has been a program that has been working."

The detox center and chemical dependency treatment program, run by the Cochran House, will remain open.

Terrell says the loss of this safety net is now his main source of anxiety and an extra layer of stress as he recovers from lupus, substance abuse, and a heart attack.

"They are supporting me a lot, they are there for us and I can't think of anything else in the county that is like this place right here, so to lose it is going to be a tragedy," said Terrell.

County leaders, housing services, and churches already had plans to set up a temporary rotating shelter with 50 beds for men and women this winter. This was to be in addition to the Cochran House. So now, resources for the homeless are being stretched further.

“No solution is present yet,” said Madeline Kastler, the housing manager in Dakota County. “This is a big community issue and it's going to require a big community solution to solve this gap in shelter beds."

To keep the temporary shelter open from November to May, it'll cost about $300,000. It’s a bill county leaders are hopeful the community can pitch in to foot.

Dakota County is giving $45,000 to help fund the temporary housing shelter. Community members are also setting up fundraising pages on social media to help raise money for the Cochran House shelter.  To donate to the temporary shelter, click here.