Simpson launches capital campaign for new shelter and housing space

Simpson Housing
Simpson Housing has launched a capital campaign to raise $10 million toward its new shelter and supportive housing space in Whittier. Submitted image

Simpson Housing Services is seeking to raise $10 million in private donations to help pay for the new shelter and permanent housing facility it plans to build on its current Whittier lot.

The nonprofit plans to break ground in 2022 on a five-story, $38 million project that will contain 70 short-term shelter beds and 42 units of permanent supportive housing but will need to secure additional funding to remain on schedule.

“We really just started,” Simpson Housing Executive Director Steve Horsfield said of the fundraising efforts.

The financing campaign for the new structure, called “Build Up,” has been pushed back a year due to the pandemic and a lack of a bonding bill from the Minnesota Legislature, which was expected to contribute state dollars to the project. Simpson has now turned to private fundraising and hopes to raise the money in 2021 before breaking ground in 2022.

Currently the organization has raised about $1 million in private donations, including a promise from the Richard M. Schulze Foundation to match $345,000. Additional funding for the project has been provided by Hennepin County.

The new shelter will allow for more purposefully designed sleeping spaces. Currently, most of the shelter beds in the former Simpson United Methodist Church at 28th & 1st are bunk beds in the basement. This new structure will have no basement and no bunk beds that make guests sleep on top of each other.

“This is really built on two principles: How can we serve people in an environment that has more dignity? And how can we build on our program of getting people into permanent supportive housing?” Horsfield said.

The shelter space will be divided among two floors, with designated areas for men, women and nonbinary guests. Sleeping areas will be six-bed, subdivided spaces offering more privacy and all bathroom facilities will be private, a rare feature in shelter space. Each floor will have a laundry room and two lounge spaces, as well as outdoor deck areas. The first floor will include a shared dining room area with large windows and a clinic space for Hennepin County’s Health Care for the Homeless.

The top two floors will hold 42 efficiency apartments, 30 of which will be designated for chronically homeless households identified by Hennepin County. Those floors will also have shared lounge spaces. The shelter and supportive housing areas will have separate entrances.

The Simpson United Methodist Church gave the building to the housing nonprofit in 2019, and the architect team said it plans to incorporate its original hardwood doors and stained glass into the design of the new structure.

“What a legacy that they created for themselves when they donated the building to Simpson,” Horsfield said.

The plan is to raze the current church once fundraising is complete and continue shelter services at a nearby location during construction. Simpson is committed to not interrupting its services while building the new shelter, Horsfield said.