At the start of the 20th century, Anoka fought for the state hospital campus that would operate until the end of the century, when a new center replaced it.

At the start of the 20th century, Anoka fought for the state hospital campus that would operate until the end of the century, when a new center replaced it.

1898-1985

Settled along a beautiful piece of property along the Rum River in Anoka, MN, were twelve “Cottages” arranged in a circle around a green grassy park.

The Anoka Asylum, later renamed Anoka State Hospital, operated for 99 years, housing and later treating mentally ill patients.  Built in 1898 in the cottage style, the hospital opened in March 1900 to admit patients from other state asylums that had become too crowded.  

During the next century, thousands of male and female patients lived at the site, later renamed the Anoka State Hospital and then the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center. Its mission and practices evolved as medicine and society’s perception of mental illness changed.


1985-1999

In 1985, the hospital underwent its final name change to the current Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center.

The hospital also played an important role in the city’s history, as a major employer for many years.  It operated until 1999, when residents were transferred to a new facility nearby.

The building and property were then given to Anoka County to use for offices and to house the county workhouse.  The remainder of the buildings were closed and boarded up.


Cottage 2, boarded up and in extreme disrepair.

Cottage 2, boarded up and in extreme disrepair.

2014

The buildings were in a state of extreme disrepair.  Information released on September 30, 2014, indicated that the Anoka County Board hoped to use three of the buildings as locations to house homeless veterans.  But with the condition of the buildings, and the extremely high bids submitted by well-intended companies, these buildings were slated for demolition in 2016.

The Anoka City Council was not going to let these beautiful buildings be demolished and carried on the hope and dream of using them for something amazing.

At this time, Senator Jim Abeler met with a couple of members of the County Board and convinced them to allow the City of Anoka to lease the buildings to house veterans in need.  Abeler was counting on the fact that the community would come together for such a task.


Over 400 volunteers stepped up to resurrect the first neglected cottage.

Over 400 volunteers stepped up to resurrect the first neglected cottage.

Senator Jim Abeler gives a vision of what could be…. if everyone came together.

Senator Jim Abeler gives a vision of what could be…. if everyone came together.

The city signed the lease with the Sauk Centre group and the work began on October 3, 2017.

The city signed the lease with the Sauk Centre group and the work began on October 3, 2017.

2017

On September 28, 2017, the city held a rally to announce the idea with the theme, “Saving Veteran’s Lives While Saving Our History.”  This moment in history was like something right out of a Norman Rockwell picture. There was a band, burgers and hotdogs on the grills, veterans on motorcycles, happy faces, excited voices, and a beautiful evening as a gift. It was a perfect storm. The coming together of an entity out of Sauk Centre to start the programming and the community coming together for the huge task ahead –making these old, abandoned, supposedly haunted buildings, livable.

And did the community EVER come together.  The goal set by Sen. Abeler, turned lead contractor, was to get the men’s cottage, Cottage 2, ready by December 1, 2017.  That gave 57 days to complete the task!

Over 400 volunteers stepped up.  There were veterans from all over the state who came--skilled union workers gave up evenings with their own families, or came out of retirement to help.  Welders, pipefitters, electricians, fire sprinkling engineers, plumbers, painters, glass fitters, cement workers, plasterers all worked in synchrony. Major companies came forward with donations of glass, paint, beds, electrical, pipes, a boiler, washers, dryers, furniture, and so much more.  Volunteers from everywhere came forth, excited to be a part of something so significant.

It was obvious to many, that God loves our veterans.  Multiple times when a need arose, before a prayer could even be uttered, the person or thing was provided.

Speaking of which, while many think these cottages were haunted and indeed it did seem eerie at first, multiple groups came through singing worship songs, praying through each floor and room to clear out the darkness and invite in the peace and light that only God can give.

After so many years… the lights are on!

After so many years…the lights are on!


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December 1, 2017

On December 1, 2017, the first 4 veterans moved in.  While many things remained to be done, it was a welcoming, and cozy home for these veterans in need of a warm bed. This was a Merry Christmas for all!



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2018

December of 2018 brought a change in operations, as Sauk Centre was a long commute. So a group of Anoka community leaders transitioned operations, rewrote the lease with the city of Anoka and Haven for Heroes was born. Honor, Hope, and Home for our Heroes.


 
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet; so He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his loving kindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!”
— Psalm 107:28-31