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Rochester homeless shelter closing in on new home

25 May 2022

ROCHESTER – A homeless shelter here well-known for its daytime drop-in center continues to have trouble finding its own home.

The Landing MN has operated day services for people experiencing homelessness since November 2020 with an agreement, COVID funds and a lease from the city of Rochester for the former fire station near Silver Lake Park.

That lease ended at the start of May, roughly two months after the Landing founders Dan and Holly Fifield announced their intention to buy the former National Pawn Shop property at 426 3rd Ave. SE. The deal is pending an environmental study after an underground oil storage unit was found on the property.

In the meantime, the Landing has moved to the Salvation Army Social Services Center, where it continues to offer services for the center’s roughly 65 to 80 individuals each day.

“We’re hoping and praying (the study) comes back clean and we don’t have any issues,” Dan Fifield said. The study will start next month and be completed in July.

The Fifields started work on the Landing in 2018. Dan said he and his wife, both former nurses, felt called to help after interacting with homeless families on the job.

The Landing, funded by grants and donations, grew to offer outreach services with a mobile truck in 2020, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit worked with the Salvation Army to offer services and operated a day shelter for the city of Rochester at the Mayo Civic Center during the height of the pandemic before settling on a temporary location at Silver Lake Station.

The Rochester City Council twice extended the agreement with the Landing over the past year while it searched for a permanent home.

The Fifields hoped to buy the former Whiskey Bones Road House at 3820 Highway 63 N. last fall, but the deal ran into complications after nearby homeowners objected and city officials said the property wasn’t zoned for social services.

“We had to just take a step back and regroup,” Fifield said.

The pawn shop site, located in Rochester’s downtown business district, is arguably a better fit. It’s a block away from the Rochester Community Warming House and Olmsted County’s Empowering Connections and Housing Outreach (ECHO) Center, services its visitors often seek.

Fifield said he understands the day shelter is “not something everybody wants in their backyard,” but said a majority of emergency calls to its shelter in the past were for medical services and concerns over an increase in crime in the area near the Silver Lake Station were unfounded.

“Our goal is to be very good neighbors,” he said.

The Landing is one of several local organizations working with Olmsted County to streamline services for homeless residents. County officials have started a work group with area nonprofits aiming to improve outcomes for people in need of housing.

About 200 to 400 people are homeless in Rochester on any given day according to Dave Dunn, director of Olmsted County’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

At the Landing, about 451 individuals received services from January through April of this year. And the Salvation Army’s homeless counts remain steady, according to Major Lisa Mueller. The Landing staff, 13 mostly part-time workers, have extended the Social Service Center’s hours to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends.

“We’ve always said unfortunately there’s enough need to go around to keep us all employed,” Mueller said.

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