Cochran to close homeless shelter in Hastings

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After two years of uncertainty, a homeless shelter for single men in Dakota County will close Dec. 1.

Cochran Recovery Services in Hastings announced it will discontinue its residential housing program, citing losses of up to $80,000 per year. The move will affect 32 residents.

"They'll be transitioned to other long-term programing," executive director Richard Terzick said. "We're not just dumping them."

Terzick said they will try to place shelter employees in other jobs at Cochran.

The nonprofit postponed closures to its shelter in July 2015 and April 2016 while they sought to fill a funding shortfall that Terzick said was caused in part by a decline in grant money.

"As an organization and with our board, as we looked over the last two years of losses, we concluded we couldn't continue," he said. "We reached out to Dakota county and the monies aren't there. They wanted us to continue staying open."

The decision was made late last month after a failed last-ditch effort to obtain funds through the county.

"They informed us they were having some financial difficulties," said Madeline Kastler, housing manager for Dakota County Social Services. "We didn't have the capability or capacity to help them fill that gap in that time frame."

The announcement is likely to disappoint faith leaders, advocates and social service professionals who are working to coordinate and streamline services for the homeless in Dakota County.

"We really value our partnership with Cochran," Kastler said. "In much of this work it is one step forward and one step back...They have been a huge resource for the community and we're sad to hear that they will be closing."

The loss of 32 beds will be mitigated by a contract with Matrix Housing Services, who will open a 50-bed facility Nov. 1 in Dakota County. It will house single men and women over the winter, Kastler said. It was planned before they knew about the Cochran closure, and still leaves them short of beds for homeless single men.

Cochran Services opened in 1974 as a detox facility and later added a treatment center for those struggling with addiction, mental health problems and trauma. Terzick said they're going to concentrate on those services and perhaps open an outpatient clinic. The shelter opened in 2010 to provide food and lodging for homeless men who were cycling from prison, drug treatment centers or the street.

But the site lay far from convenient public transportation. Instead, housing manager Kenny Johnson would shuttle residents into the Twin Cities three times a week to look for work or attend addiction recovery meetings.

That wasn't sustainable over time, said Mike Manhard, executive director of Metro-Wide Engagement on Shelter & Housing in the Twin Cities.

"It wasn't a good mission fit," he said. "Cochran started as more of a treatment program. It did not start out with the intention of becoming a primary homeless shelter provider. I think that effort was to return to what they had intended."