St. Peter Motel

A local ministry group in St. Peter, which requested anonymity, donated the St. Peter Motel to Partners for Affordable Housing to convert into a homeless shelter. The property could add 11 units of emergency, transitional and longer-term housing to the community, although details are still being finalized. Screenshot via Google Maps

ST. PETER — Although the St. Peter Motel isn’t yet available as a homeless shelter, the conversion is moving along ahead of a possible late 2019 opening.

Partners for Affordable Housing obtained the motel at 221 Union St. last year thanks to an anonymous donation. The motel has remained in operation while the nonprofit readies it for its future use.

Partners Executive Director Jen Theneman said the nonprofit will consider continuing motel operations in portions of the space while ramping up the shelter usage.

“I’m really hoping for fall to get it open on a smaller scale and then we’ll go from there,” she said.

The dual usage could continue longer term depending on shelter needs. Adding the St. Peter option could help relieve lengthy wait lists for emergency housing at Partners’ Mankato shelters, Theresa House and Welcome Inn.

The St. Peter shelter project recently garnered federal grant funding. Theneman is also applying for support from state funding sources, and the project’s first fundraiser July 25 at Gustavus Adolphus College’s Alumni Hall should bring in further help.

In the meantime, the shelter’s manager will start at Partners this week. Theneman said the nonprofit’s focus will shift to program details once the manager arrives.

Those details will include a case management plan for clients and whatever renovations are needed in the motel rooms to suit single or family rooms. Major renovations haven’t been determined yet, but the building will receive a fresh coat of paint this summer.

St. Peter doesn’t have a homeless shelter. Solace Apartments opened in 2018 as a housing option for people at risk of homelessness, but the nearest shelters are in Mankato.

Theneman said the new shelter can help better serve clients coming from St. Peter, Le Sueur and other communities north of Mankato.

“We very rarely have openings in Mankato, so this could be another option for people especially if they come from further north,” Theneman said.

Annual homeless counts aren't usually conducted in communities of St. Peter's size. With no official numbers on the city's homeless population, St. Peter Community Development Director Russ Wille said it's an almost invisible issue in the city.

“We don’t have homeless people sleeping in the alleys or under the stairwells,” he said. “They’re typically sleeping in their cars or couch hopping.”

He said adding a shelter adds to the city's housing matrix, designed to meet the needs of as many residents as possible.

For more information on Partners' shelter plans, go to www.partnersforhousing.org.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola