County Partnerships Strengthen Communities and Empower People

County Partnerships Strengthen Communities and Empower People Click to Enlarge

It’s working! Collaboration among community partners improves lives in Otter Tail County. On Tuesday, August 27 the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners and other staff members were invited to tour and learn more about the Perham 180 Program sponsored by Productive Alternatives, Inc. (PAI).

The Perham 180 Program is model of how community partners working together change lives. It all began with a generous donation from Charlie Nelson of KLN. KLN owned unoccupied employee housing units that were no longer needed. Nelson offered the housing to PAI to develop into a community-based housing and employment program. With the help of grant funding from West Central Initiative and the Veden Trust, PAI was able to develop a creative solution to complex housing and employment barriers in the area.

The Perham 180 Program is a six-month housing and employment program that provides opportunities for employment and housing in a supportive environment that provides stability and independent living in Perham. The housing complex is comprised of nine self-contained housing units for adults. The unit has a living space and bathroom with individuals sharing a communal kitchen and TV lounge.

Perham 180 Program participants apply to the program. In addition to housing, the program also provides local employment opportunities, meaningful goal planning, and support in ‘improving social and self-care’. A former resident said, “Perham 180 gave me the opportunity to get to know myself as a person, address my character defects, and maintain my sobriety.” This appears to be the experience for many who have participated and moved from the program. “(The Perham 180 Program) takes those who have barriers to employment and housing and gives them the opportunity to start over in a safe and supportive environment,” said Hannah Frederick, Perham 180 Program Director.

The program began in October 2018 and has since empowered participants. The discharge data from August 2019 shows that many in the program maintained sobriety, participated in social events, passed room checks, attained full time employment, and were offered insurance through their jobs. “Working with others, especially young people, to get through tough times is my passion,” remarked County Commissioner Betty Murphy, when asked about her reflections on the program. “We are interested in programs where there is community involvement that supports others. This is a piece we need in each community. It is a win-win for all involved.”

Commissioners were driven to Perham on an Otter Express Transit Bus. Otter Tail County contributes $20,000 annually from the County transportation budget to the public transit program. Daryn Toso, PAI Transit Director, noted that ridership has increased every year and the service is seeing a greater demand for transporting young children to preschool and day care. Fergus Falls and Perham are the primary service areas in Otter Tail County.

The Perham 180 Program believes “everyone needs a network of family and friends who are there to help them become the best versions of themselves.” As a non-profit, program donations are appreciated. If you are interested in becoming a room sponsor, donating items or would like more information on applying to the program please call 218-298-0083 or 218-298-4359.

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