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Hope House still feeling effects from shutdown

BEMIDJI - When the state of Minnesota saw its government shut down in July 2011, Hope House was just one of the entities to feel the effects.

"The financial struggles are the hardest," Robin Wold, executive director of Hope House, said. "(The shutdown) resulted in a lack of service for 75 people for 40 days. The drop-in center was closed from July to October. Many people went to the hospital."

The cost to taxpayers for those hospital stays was approximately $1,100 per person per day. Wold said the cost to operate Hope House is $10 per person per day.

Hope House is a community support program for people with long-term mental health issues. It is a comprehensive program that provides a range of services including skills training, medication education, access to a crisis line, diagnostic assessments, counseling, a loan fund, a family support group and different employment opportunities.

Hope House is funded by Medical Assistance, Medicare, a state-funded county grant, United Way, private insurance and donations. As a result of the state government shutdown, Hope House was forced to make cuts for 2012.

"Our activities program went from being all day to half days at the drop-in center," Wold said. "We no longer serve meals every day. There's less work for our clients. We're just barely maintaining."

Hope House's employment options for its clients include a public speaking program, a mentor program and a housing repair and movers program. They also have a few people who clean, mow and do maintenance. Due to the shutdown, employment opportunities at Hope House were cut in half.

"Almost all those who were employed (by us) found jobs in the community," Wold said. "It's been harder for those who were used to having full days here and now only have partial days here."

Hope House serves about 150 people each year.

"People can call us regardless of whether they qualify," Wold said. "Many people need a service and we will help connect them to that service. We'll make sure (people) don't get stuck in the system."