Since it opened in 2012, A Place For You has served hundreds of men and women – 81 in the past year alone – from Pine, Kanabec, Carlton, Chisago, Isanti and Mille Lacs counties, giving them a temporary place to live and a chance to get out of homelessness.
However, Pine City’s transitional shelter for individuals, has never faced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a challenge to make sure our residents and our employees are safe,” said A Place For You Board Member Deb Eck. “We work through all those challenges to make sure all their needs are met.”
Eck said the APFY Executive Director Vicki VanderVegt obtained “buckets” of hand sanitizer that were being offered by a Minnesota distillery. Then VanderVegt and the other staff and volunteers established rules and routines to protect the health of all those staying in or helping out at the shelter.
“They worked really hard,” Eck said. “We’re still following those rigid practices. Scary times.”
Eck has been involved in A Place For You since 2012 as a board member. She has also been involved in raising funds for the shelter at the secondhand shop Furnishings For You (220 3rd Ave. SE) – since its inception in 2018.
That shop had been closed for three months during the pandemic shutdown, but re-opened its doors on June 10 with a sale for customers.
“It’s like a ‘Welcome back,’” Eck said.
The shelter also usually holds an annual dinner and fundraiser, but like organizations everywhere they have had to change their plans in the wake of COVID-19.
“We usually have a gala, but we’re going to a virtual event,” she explained. “Our hopes are that those individuals that sponsored tables or donated items for the live auction or silent auction will be interested in helping.”
She said planning for that event is underway, and more information will be released in the near future.
Shelter stays put
As the city put together redevelopment plans for the former mill site next door to A Place For You, it was unclear for over a year whether the shelter would be staying in its current location or moving elsewhere.
“When we thought that they were just going to buy it and destroy it, we would fix things we needed to fix but we didn’t do major improvements because it didn’t make sense,” Eck said.
However, the city is now pursuing a deal for the former mill site that would not include A Place For You, and shelter staff and volunteers are now making long-term plans for their current facility.
“Now we’re looking at, ‘What do we need to do in this building?’ Now we have to take a look at what those needs are and focus on those kinds of things, because we’re going to be staying in place.”
Eck said that there are many things about volunteering a the shelter that inspire her about A Place For You, but there is one in particular.
“To me, it’s so many folks who are generous with their time, treasure and talents,” Eck said. “They make sure that the shelter is available for those in need.”
To find out more, contact A Place For You at 320-438-7070 or visit them at www.apfy.org.