The Emily Program moves in to Linden Hills

Olympian Jessie Diggins will speak this week at The Emily Program, which is opening a new supportive housing facility in Linden Hills. Photo courtesy of The Emily Program

A former convent that’s been vacant since 2003 is under renovation in Linden Hills. The Emily Program, an organization that treats eating disorders, is converting the building into supportive housing for clients 18 and older. The building will house the program’s most severe cases that require 24-hour care.

“We run waiting lists almost all the time,” said Jillian Lampert, chief strategy officer.

The organization currently operates housing in St. Paul, Cleveland and Seattle. Culinary staff members prepare meals and snacks onsite, teaching clients to prepare their own meals as well. All-day programming includes nursing care and psychiatric care. Average stays are 34 days.

The target opening date is the fall of 2019.

The Emily Program serves clients of all ages and genders with disorders like anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and compulsive overeating. Lampert said they’re seeing more demand for adolescent services, as the stigma of seeking help lessens over time. Just 15-20 percent of people who need help actually receive it, she said.

One public advocate is Jessie Diggins, an Olympic gold medalist in cross-country skiing who will speak at The Emily Program’s 25th anniversary celebration Nov. 3.

“People look at her as a hero,” Lampert said.

Diggins wrote in a blog last summer about her own issues with body image. She said checking into The Emily Program saved her life.

“The last thing I’d ever want is for a young skier struggling with body image to hear a rumor, and think that I came home from the Olympics with a medal because of disordered eating,” she wrote. “On the contrary, getting help and becoming healthy again was the ONLY way I could have made it through the stress, pressure and expectations of the Olympics and the following spring. Without the confidence to say ‘I’m great as I am, thanks’ I couldn’t have faced the media day after day and pursued my goals without feeling like I was about to crack into pieces. … I finally started to embrace my muscles and be proud of them, and the cool things they allowed me to do.”