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St. Paul officials reverse course, will rebuild Dorothy Day homeless center in downtown

An ambitious plan to rebuild the Dorothy Day homeless center outside of downtown St. Paul and away from its present location near the Xcel Energy Center has foundered.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Monday that the plan to rebuild a bigger and better center on the East Side faced too much neighborhood opposition to move it quickly through the Legislature. So the plan was revised and officials have decided to rebuild the center on or near its current downtown site.

Said Coleman in a statement:

 The core recommendations of the Dorothy Day Center ReVision — permanent housing, dignified shelter, and connections to services and opportunities to prevent and end homelessness — have received enthusiastic, bipartisan and statewide support from many people. We are confident that, with time, concerns about the proposed location could have been resolved. Unfortunately, we don’t have the amount of time necessary to resolve these concerns.

The earlier plan was considered a way to alleviate the overcrowding at Dorothy Day, which is run by Catholic Charities and was built in 1980 to help 50 people a day. Currently, it shelters up to 250 people people a day.

The plan was to build a $64 million center northeast of downtown, near bus lines and other social services.

Neighbors and businesses in the area, though, worried that adding a large-scale homeless center to the East Side might further harm its image, which has been tarnished with blight and crime.

Supporters said the project is too important to delay another year, so they want action at the Capitol this year on their requested $39 million in state funding. With that timetable, they felt they didn’t have enough time to make their case to the neighbors.

Moving the homeless center away from the Wild arena and the core of downtown would have freed the site for other development, but officials said earlier that that was not what drove the project.

During the 2008 Republican National Convention, delegates were steered away from Dorothy Day and tarps were used to screen the building and its occupants from the arena.

At the time, officials said they didn’t want to hide the homeless but were working to protect their dignity.

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