Mary Lahammer learns about creative plans in Anoka to create housing for veterans in the former state insane asylum once considered haunted. In a series of reports we see the “cottages” were vacant for a decade and now the state, county and city are working together to try to bring back new life into the abandoned buildings. In the past generation government and society has moved away from institutionalizing people with disabilities, leaving many facilities empty.

Minnesota State Senator Jim Abeler, the Republican Chair of Human Services Reform is from Anoka and he takes us on a tour through a building riddled with vandalism warning people “welcome to hell.” But the future here is optimistic. The buildings have strong architectural bones. Mold, mildew, decay don’t dissuade all the volunteers who vow to turn this place around by winter to start housing homeless veterans. “They tend to kill themselves” in the cold Abeler says, so he’s eager to prove the critics wrong. See this later story showing how it all turns out.