The owner removes bathroom access for homeless nonprofit families

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The new owner of the non-profit organization, Tim Taylor of Halvorson-Taylor Funeral and Cremation Care (formerly Halvorson-Johnson), has built a wall blocking access to the restrooms that New Pathways had previously used and advised the tenant to use them at Holiday Stationstore located south of Sixth Street.

Taylor took the steps that were required in the midst of a dispute between landlord and tenant regarding payments to cover utility costs and a number of other disputes regarding the use of space by the non-profit sector and the operation of the program. He added that the premises rented by the organization never included the bathrooms and that the NPO could easily have added its own toilet during the renovation of part of the space .

"Nowhere in the lease does it say that they have any use outside their square footage," Taylor said in a telephone interview on February 8. "It was they who decided what to do with the plumbing and how they spent their money … The fact that they did everything but in fact they put the stool (the toilet), I will not be responsible. "

Without bathrooms, the only shelter for homeless adults with children in an area of ​​six counties is at risk of losing its US Department of Homelessness and Urban Development grant funding for emergency solutions. Its leaders have chosen to interrupt the acceptance of new families in need amidst the uncertainty surrounding the home program Brainerd.

"We need to be able to go to the bathroom," said Pam Streed, executive director of the organization, during an interview on Feb. 1. "We must have bathrooms, we serve children."

Change hands

Taylor became the owner of the organization in November. This has occurred as part of a building exchange with the First Presbyterian Church. Taylor became the owner of the large church building located at 512 S. Eighth St., while the church took possession of one of the burial house's premises. adapted to the size of the congregation, at 7761 Excelsior Road, Baxter.

New Pathways has been occupying part of the church's basement since April 2017, when it was forced to leave its previously owned space by the Brainerd School District because of its intention to demolish the aging structure. Through fundraising efforts, the organization has invested approximately $ 30,000 in its new space to make it suitable for use as a day center for homeless families. This included the installation of a kitchenette, a laundry and a shower.

Although the organization's lease specifies that the church would not pay more than $ 200 a month for utilities, the church never raised these funds. After the first year, the amount had to be revalued according to use, but this never happened.

"We have not really pushed the issue to the expense level," said Mark Ford, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, during a phone interview on Feb. 1. "Churches tend to work in principle, if it does not really bother anyone, we just let it slip in. Nobody seemed to be too upset about it."

The organization also occupied about 700 square feet beyond what was specified in the rental agreement, including an employee's office, a family television and a toy room and a room containing posts. computer work for customers. These rooms are located in a hallway that eventually leads to a pair of toilets.

Ford said the space was not used otherwise and the church did not want to invest in adding bathrooms to the space occupied by the organization, while some remained subsoil. "We were trying to see this as a ministry," he said. "We thought it was useful that we be good stewards of the space."

Pam Oslos, Chair of the New Pathways Board of Directors, said the organization was not considering adding toilets because, as far as she knows, they would still have access to the toilets at the end of the corridor, which include two stands and two urinals.

A possible solution

The church moved in November 2018 and Taylor moved in with the intention of converting the 47-year-old building into a funeral chapel and adding a crematorium. Taylor had previously voiced concerns about the compatibility of this association with a funeral home, Streed said, noting that he did not want children to play outside during one of the businesses. darker of his businessmen. Streed said that the organization understood. Things seemed to get tougher between Streed and Taylor after workers evaluating the building for construction purposes entered New Pathways without warning.

"There was a lot of traffic, there were people coming here who were not supposed to do it, it's supposed to be confidential," Streed said.

Taylor, meanwhile, said that New Pathways' customers also did not respect the space of the funeral home. He provided pictures of children gathered at the foot of the stairwell outside the organization's space and stated that he had been disturbed by screams coming down.

"People who participate in this program are not watching their children," said Taylor. "I was here, I had saws, hammers, all kinds of things, and I could tell you stories that you could write a four-page article about what's going on here." Is not about the bathrooms.These people do not look at their children … And I talked to the director if not, three times .. She lets me down. "

Taylor said he was worried about the safety of the children and his potential liability if someone was to be hurt.

On November 27, Taylor met Streed and Oslos. An agenda prepared by Taylor lists what he says are breaches of the lease contract by New Pathways, including the additional 700 square feet used. Taylor gave the organization 48 hours to release three rooms, adding that the locks would be changed after this time. Streed said Taylor had announced his intention to rent space to a new tenant.

The agenda also indicated that the organization owed $ 200 for utilities for November and that it should install its own restroom, as the lease did not include the facility. access to bathrooms outside approximately 3,200 square feet.

Streed called the meeting hostile at its beginnings, while Taylor began with a list of apparent lease offenses. But in the end, she said, things became more cooperative. Streed and Oslos agreed that the organization would release the rooms requested by Taylor, and the discussion then turned to Taylor to create a new point of access to one of the toilets.

According to Streed, Taylor proposed to build a new door linking the organization's laundry room to the men's room, which would eliminate the need to walk past a stairwell leading to an area where guests could be accommodated funeral. The bathroom would become sexless and would be locked from the outside, Streed said, so this would be for private use of the organization.

Although releasing the rooms is hard work, she said, the organization has met Taylor's deadline. Streed said it was an attempt to agree with the new owner – although she argues that the lease does not specify which rooms and basement areas are included in the 3,200 square feet.

Taylor said that the lease should not necessarily indicate specific rooms, as the space of the organization begins at its entrance.

"The church said it was your entrance, that's where your mailbox is, and that's where your sign goes, so that's where the 3,200 square feet start," said Taylor. "Nowhere does he say that they have full access to the building." Nowhere does he say that they can enter anytime and anywhere and do what they want. they want."

Revoked bathroom privileges

Although Taylor indicated that access to the new bathroom would be coming soon, Streed said the weeks were passing by without a new door or a word. Taylor said his priority was the funeral home, not New Pathways, and that he was busy working on his new location on the upper floor.

The organization acceded to Taylor's request to set up signage forcing parents to accompany their children to the bathroom and, according to Streed, no problem has arisen. Taylor challenges this claim.

Then, in an email dated December 19, Taylor sent a scanned copy of his bill from Brainerd Public Utilities. It included fees for services rendered between November 19 and December 10 at the funeral home located at 703 Oak Street, near the church, and at the church. Taylor argued that the use of electricity at rush hours, which is billed at a higher rate for commercial properties, has shown that the company would have to shell out $ 150 per month for services public. He compared the electricity charges to the "demand" rate between properties, which, he said, showed the impact of New Pathways.

"The total bill (electric) bill went up to $ 445.92, we used a very very minimal feed upstairs," Taylor wrote. "You want to consider turning off your computers and extra items, your staff will leave the lights dark for seven hours a day, eight hours a day."

Streed replied that the next day she did not think that November would be a good month of use, given the increased activity in the building due to construction and prior use by the company. Organization of additional area. In the future, this space would no longer be used, and releasing it meant losing access to an Internet connection, which would reduce the use of the computer by the company to only one computer.

"Our initial agreement with the church was to look at the incremental cost compared to what they used this first year, which is a completely different situation now," Streed wrote. "I do not try to be difficult, but understand please that at this point I can not agree to pay $ 150 per month." Our next board meeting Administration will take place in January, so I could also get acquainted with them. "

In response the same day, Taylor wrote that it was not acceptable that the organization does not contribute anything to public services. He again noted the difference between the electricity used during rush hours at the church compared to his adjacent funeral home, and spoke of the prolific use of lighting, the washer and the dryer.

"If you do not pay $ 150.00 for the lighting, you do not use the bathrooms that you do not pay, so choose your choice, pay for electricity or install your own toilet," wrote Taylor.

On January 17, Streed wrote to Taylor asking if they were paying $ 150 a month, what would be the future of the bathroom situation – if he planned to close the door that connects the laundry and the room How would it work if he rented space between New Pathways and the bathroom to a new tenant.

The same day, Taylor informed Streed of his intention to install a new wall and a new door in the hallway, delineating the space of New Pathways in relation to the rest of the basement.

"You do not have to accept the amount of ($) 150.00 per month. You can simply ask your employees to use the Resort starting today. The rental agreement does not allow you beyond your authorized space. I can simply lock the bathrooms. shut off the water supply to the shower, washer and dryer, "Taylor wrote." … I'm not in business to subsidize your program. "

A week later, the door was closed, locked, and had a typewritten sign on Taylor's letterhead: "As of January 23, 2019, the bathrooms are not available for New Pathways." Please use the station -Service Holiday. "

From 25 to 31 January, temperatures did not exceed 10% in Brainerd, according to the National Meteorological Service, and remained below zero for four of those days. The organization served a family during this time and was able to provide accommodation allowing them to arrive early and stay up late to use the bathrooms in the churches of the area, which provide accommodation for guests to sleep. from New Pathways.

A human resources representative from Holiday Co.'s head office did not respond to a request for comment indicating whether Taylor had discussed this arrangement with the management of the service station. Taylor has not commented on it either.

Behind the numbers

Taylor said the organization was paying $ 750 a month in rent, but that he was losing money by covering public services. He introduced a bill for the period from December 10, 2018 to January 10, which showed that the church was using 26,000 gallons of water for a period of time that he believed had very little activity on his part. The total cost of electricity and water to the church building for this period was $ 1,083.98.

According to Crow Wing County, the funeral home building located at 703 Oak Street contains 6,599 square feet of space above the ground. The church building comprises 14,749 square feet above the ground, not counting the basement.

Presbyterian pastor Mark Ford provided utility costs for the construction of the church from January 2015 to the first week of November 2018, when the congregation left the premises. According to an analysis of figures by Dispatch, the church paid a monthly average of $ 996.18 to Brainerd Public Utilities between January 2015 and March 2017, before the move of New Pathways. From April 2017 to January 2018, including the invoice provided by Taylor, Utilities costs averaged $ 1,248.08 per month, a difference of $ 251.90 per month, after installation of New Pathways. Breakdowns between electricity and water for most months were not available.

Ford said he noticed an increase in water consumption, since the church usually used water only on Sundays.

"We knew that they were going to do the laundry and more showers, so it was kind of natural," he said.

Plans to do

A September 7 letter written by Bernick Lifson P.A.'s attorney Daniel B. Greenstein shows Taylor's plans to make changes to the New Pathways space a few months before he took a lease. Writing to the First Presbyterian Church on behalf of New Pathways, Greenstein explained Taylor's plan to remove bathroom access and take over some of the space occupied by the organization. He proposed that such actions would violate part of the lease governing the use of the premises.

"Section 22 of the lease provides that if the premises become unfit for the use of the tenants, without fault or negligence on the part of the tenant, the responsibility of the tenant for the subsequent rent and the right of the tenants to the possession of the In our view, this certainly seems to be the case on this property, "wrote Greenstein.

Another part of the early termination lease explains the situations in which the owner would be responsible for a portion of the tenants' construction costs: bankruptcy proceedings, restructuring or liquidation of one of the parties, transfer of ownership to a third party, when the third party does not agree to take the lease. If any of these events occurred between the 13th and 24th month of the lease (the period of time during which the lease is entered into), the landlord would have to pay 75% of the construction costs.

Decisions to come

At the February 1 interview, Streed pointed out that the organization was willing to contribute to utility costs, but its leaders wanted a better understanding of the real impact on the business. use of electricity and more historical data for comparison purposes. She added that Taylor's requests for additional information by email had been treated silently – the owner was no longer communicating with New Pathways.

Taylor said he preferred to communicate by phone rather than email, but he ended up discussing problems with Streed. He said that he would like to meet the council but that he was not asked to do so.

"Everything is on the table, but I can not get Pam (Streed) to sit down and talk, because I do not want to talk to him.I want to talk to the board," Taylor said. "She has a bias to save her job. (…) The lease is not concluded between her and me, but between my company and their board of directors."

The events of the past few months have left room for the organization to make decisions, Streed said. To evacuate the property would be to abandon the $ 30,000 investment in the building through donor funds. Investing additional funds by installing toilets also seems a risky prospect, Streed said, considering the owner-tenant relationship.

"Why do not we just say this guy does not like us?" Why do not we leave? I was not comfortable with that because the community helped us pay for it, "Streed said." It was a lot of money. We have not even been here two years. It would be a huge sum of money to say: "We do not like our new owner, we'll just let it." I do not think it's fair for people who have made a donation. "

Taylor said that he would be fine if New Pathways moved out.

"The first line of this lease, says that both parties can break the contract by mutual agreement, nobody has the slightest problem, no one has to pay any penalty, nothing," he said. "They can leave when they want, I will not force them to a lease, please go away."

In order for New Pathways to continue receiving federal government grants – a significant portion of its budget – the bylaws require the development of bathrooms. "Every shelter participant must have access to sanitary facilities that are in good working order, private and conducive to personal cleanliness and the disposal of human waste," the regulation says.

Tom Balsley of Minnesota's Department of Social Services told Streed in an email that the funding could be transferred to the organization's headquarters in Cambridge, "but we hope that the bathroom problem can be solved at short term while searching for a new Brainerd site in the country ". long term."

Taylor said he had offered to give the organization a building that he owns at Staples, a former gas station that was previously worth $ 50,000. He said that Streed was not interested and did not see the property.

Streed stated that the proposal made by Taylor prior to the closure of the property had been presented to the council, which had arranged a special meeting to discuss it. The property would require a lot of work to make it habitable, she said.

"Our advice … decided that it was important for us to stay in the Brainerd area," Streed wrote in an email on February 14th. "The staples would be far enough for most of our church partners, so that was also a factor."

What is New Pathways?

Founded in 1995, New Pathways opened in Cambridge. In 2006, the program first expanded to Little Falls before relocating to Brainerd, its second site. The location of Brainerd serves six counties, although most families come from Crow Wing County. He served 31 families between July 2016 and June 2017, including 44 adults and 59 children. Since July 2018, 17 families have been served in Brainerd.

The organization seeks to be a global resource for homeless families. Its purpose is to provide all the basic needs and resources needed to find a personal job and home: laundry, personal care products, showers, telephone and internet access, and transportation. Clients have access to case management and professional training, including budgeting, parenting, job search and healthy living.

Overnight stays and three meals a day are provided to clients through partnerships with churches and volunteers in their congregations. Every week, a different church serves as a host, with volunteers helping with meal preparation and spending the night with families. A dozen churches take turns throughout the year to serve as a home base, while more than 20 churches in Brainerd's Lake District support the program through donations in dollars and in supplies.