The Bethany Crisis Shelter in Morgan Park will soon have a new home to better serve children and their parents during times of need. The project will replace the current Lutheran Social Services facility for short-term, emergency housing for youth undergoing times of crisis and trauma.
“I think kids do better when they’re in an environment that communicates that they’re cared for and loved,” said Duncan Gregory, program director at Bethany. “Nothing says love like a new facility, a new couch, a new pool table. Some of these kids may never have experienced that and we’re providing that for them.”
The 11,000-square-foot facility will be able to serve up to 12 children at a time and will meet standards from the Americans With Disabilities Act. One of the biggest additions, however, will be a family resource center to allow for parental support and education, plus visitation and other services.
Gregory said the expansion for services will allow for him and other LSS staff to sit down with parents or families and act as a bridge between parent and child. While a child might be able to heal from past trauma while at Bethany, the environment they came from needs to change in order to prevent those circumstances from happening again.
“I’ve never met a mom that hasn’t loved their child, but maybe they don’t have the appropriate skillset to talk to their kid when that kid is angry or when they’re upset with their kid,” Gregory said. “With this new facility, particularly with our family resource center, it affords us the opportunity to do that parent coaching and provide those (therapeutic) services.”
Youth and Family Services Senior Director Dawn Shykes said the shelter provides resources in a more isolated area of Duluth. By increasing the services at Bethany, they are able to work with more families who experience disparities, especially those who are Black, Indigenous and people of color. Every child and family has a unique experience, so the resource center will allow them to create individualized plans.
“There’s no cookie-cutter method here for us, it’s just really looking at each of the children and each of the families independently and helping them to identify their strengths as well as areas that they would like to work on,” Shykes said. “We’re going to follow their lead on the things that they say that they need.”
The current Bethany Crisis Shelter is a residential home that was built in the early 1970s. Local philanthropists Dave and Lisa Goldberg pushed for the campaign to upgrade the facility.
“Bethany is just an unknown wealth that we have here,” Dave Goldberg said. “I bet there isn’t 5% or 10% of the people in Duluth that know it even exists. It’s always been under the radar, but it’s been doing its job quietly and lovingly for many years.”
Although initial plans were to raise around $650,000 to give the home a facelift, Dave Goldberg said it became evident a new building would better serve Bethany’s mission. The home had experienced flooding and was outdated. Plus, Gregory said, it was unable to accommodate many situations, including siblings who wanted to share a room.
Now, $2.5 million of a $3 million capital campaign has been raised to support the new facility, which will better accommodate those situations and prevent further trauma. While a ceremonial groundbreaking occurred at a presentation for donors and supporters Wednesday afternoon, construction is expected to begin next month.
The new Bethany Crisis Shelter will be built on the same Morgan Park lot as the current shelter, which will be demolished when the new facility is completed next year. DSGW Architects designed the new facility and it will be built by Donald Holm Construction.
LSS Chief Executive Officer Patrick Thueson said a new facility is what the area’s children deserve, and the Bethany staff and its advocates never lost sight of that.
“I think of all the young lives that have been changed here, admittedly in a little-bit worse-for-wear facility,” Thueson said. “Imagine what we’re going to accomplish together in this new facility.”
The Bethany Crisis Center receives referrals from social service providers, the court system and law enforcement. The children they serve often are experiencing family conflict, neglect, abuse, substance abuse, truancy, running away or out-of-home placement.
Gregory said a common phrase heard at the shelter is, “There must be angels in the chimney at Bethany.”
“We can see some pretty challenging things in this work, but Bethany is a place of healing and growth, of relationships and resilience,” Gregory said. “Most importantly, it’s a place of hope for a brighter future.”