Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Grand Rapids homeless shelter expansion will double capacity

People gather outside Grace House in Grand Rapids for the organization's groundbreaking ceremony May 9, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
People gather outside Grace House in Grand Rapids for the organization's groundbreaking ceremony May 9, 2024.

Grace House of Itasca County is the county's only homeless shelter and has been open since 2006.

GRAND RAPIDS — Grace House of Itasca County is breaking ground on a new addition that will double its capacity from 10 beds to 20.

The expansion will also shift the homeless shelter from a communal setting to private rooms, a need demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the shelter had to house people in hotels.

A ceremony in Grand Rapids on Thursday, May 9, celebrated the project, which is made possible in part by a $1.9 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

The floor plans for the Grace House expansion are displayed at the groundbreaking ceremony in Grand Rapids on May 9, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
The floor plans for the Grace House expansion are displayed at the groundbreaking ceremony in Grand Rapids on May 9, 2024.

Maryann Bartos, one of the founding members of Grace House, said it is unreal to think about how the shelter has transformed.

“I remember us going out and speaking with people to do the fundraising is that they were going, ‘There’s no homeless in Grand Rapids,’” she said. “But of course it was hidden, people would bed hop in the houses or camp out when they could. So, it wasn’t all that visible at that time.”

Grace House is Itasca County’s only homeless shelter and began operating in 2006, with a stand-alone shelter built in 2012.

According to its annual report, the shelter served over 180 guests in 2022, and nearly 70% were Itasca County residents. People stayed for 20 days on average, and more than half found temporary or permanent housing to move into.

Grace House plans to host a grand opening for the new shelter space sometime this winter.

Access to shelter for the unhoused across Northern Minnesota is limited, but leaders said focused funding from the state has provided a boost.

Reed Olson, executive director of the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless in Bemidji, said in an interview on the KAXE Morning Show that the 2023 legislative session was beneficial for shelters.

A crowd watches the Grace House groundbreaking ceremony in Grand Rapids on May 9, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
A crowd watches the Grace House groundbreaking ceremony in Grand Rapids on May 9, 2024.

“They drastically increased the amount of funds that they send out to help shelters operate,” he said.

More affordable housing and access to mental health services could help decrease the need for shelters, Olson said. But right now, there are still people who need housing.

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.