Following Drake Hotel Fire, Congregations Can Provide Ongoing Support

Dan Gregory January 2, 2020

Taking action to bring hope.

Beacon’s shelter program in need of new congregations to host families experiencing homelessness.

Congregations looking for meaningful ways to support families displaced by the Francis Drake Hotel fire can provide shelter through existing programs. That’s the message from Lee Blons, President / CEO of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. “Every week, faith communities host families experiencing homelessness through our shelter program,” she said. “We share deep sorrow and concern for the hundreds of our neighbors whose shelter was destroyed in the fire. We know there are families needing shelter every night of the year. Beacon is calling on new congregations to support these neighbors by channeling our concern into action and joining us in hosting.”

Beacon’s shelter program combines professional case management and support with congregations who open their doors to provide a comfortable place for families experiencing homelessness to sleep. With the Drake Hotel fire eliminating one of the few options for Hennepin County families, programs like Beacon’s are vital.

“In this moment,” remarked Blons, “families need a safe place to stay each night and people to rally around them to say ‘you’re not alone.’ That’s where our shelter program comes in. We need new congregations participating right now to help us sustain this work.”

Congregations who participate in the shelter program receive training and coordination support from Beacon staff. Volunteers set up rooms in their congregation’s building for each family and serve a hot dinner, occasionally structuring evening activities to help kids play and parents relax.  

Rev. Emily Goldthwaite Fries, a congregational organizer with Beacon, works with mosques, synagogues, and churches to prepare them to host families and take action for more affordable housing in their community. “When tragedy strikes, the faith community is always among the first to respond,” she said. “Our many faiths call us to stand with our neighbors and build a society that works for everyone. If you’re part of a faith community who sees the growing crisis of homelessness and is looking for a way to engage, we’d invite you to join us.”

“We need more affordable housing options for families across the Twin Cities,” Blons added. “Beacon is leading the charge to create and sustain those options.” Beacon’s Vista 44, family supportive housing recently approved by the Hopkins City Council, would provide about 50 families with a quality, affordable home. Yet the highly-rated development did not receive public funding this year, delaying the homes families need today. “The Drake fire starkly reveals the critical need for homes for those who are most vulnerable to dislocation,” noted Blons. “In 2020, we’re calling on our elected officials – city, region, and state – to prioritize funding for homes and services families need to succeed.”   

To learn more about how your congregation can participate in Beacon’s shelter program and create long-term solutions, contact Emily at: or (651) 789-6260 ext. 225.