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Laporte's 'The Door' coffee shop serves as emergency shelter

A homeless shelter and coffee shop combo, The Door -- located at 155 First Ave. NE -- opened in March and is situated in a fully renovated historical home that was originally built in 1906.

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The Door is located at 155 First Ave. NE in Laporte and serves as a homeless shelter and coffee shop combo. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
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LAPORTE -- Nestled in the heart of Laporte sits one of the oldest homes in town, decked out in holiday decor with a large “coffee” flag fluttering in the front yard. From the outside, it looks like your average small-town cafe. For the community, though, it’s so much more.

A homeless shelter and coffee shop combo, The Door -- located at 155 First Ave. NE -- opened in March and is situated in a fully renovated historical home that was originally built in 1906.

Upon entering the cozy coffee shop, customers are greeted by a full menu of coffees, teas and smoothies, as well as breakfast and lunch items. It's a place for guests to kick back, enjoy a bite to eat and admire a piece of Laporte's history.

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The main floor of The Door is a cozy coffee shop, complete with a full menu of coffees, teas and smoothies, as well as breakfast and lunch. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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The second floor of the home, however, is a different story -- it serves as an emergency homeless shelter. Owners Joyce and Kevin Day use the proceeds from the coffee shop to help support the ongoing expenses of the shelter.

The upstairs level, made up of four bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting area, is set up as a safe oasis for people going through the hardships of homelessness.

Residents come from many walks of life -- some are newly homeless, some have been for years. Many, Joyce said, are freshly out of rehabilitation programs or are trying to escape domestic violence situations.

The couple welcomes residents with open arms, offering them a warm bed, clothes and homemade meals, all for no charge. Residents can live at the home for up to 30 days, and throughout their stay, Joyce and her husband Kevin assist them with anything they might need to get back on their feet.

“We help them look for places (to live), we help them look for jobs and we help them with financing. It’s mostly just support in making those phone calls, getting them a social security card or filing taxes,” Joyce said. “A lot of it is just guiding them through basic life stuff.”

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Joyce and Kevin Day opened The Door on March 24, 2021, as a dual coffee shop and homeless shelter for those in need of emergency housing. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

The couple also ensures that when residents leave The Door, they’re well-equipped to take on the world.

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“We have a storage shed that has furniture, so when they move on and get an apartment they have dishes, beds, bedding and everything they might need to set up,” Joyce said.

While Joyce and Kevin are happy to see people leave the shelter after their stay and get a fresh start, a resident’s departure from the home isn’t where their relationship with the Day’s ends.

“We get close to our residents, and we still stay in contact with them when they leave,” Joyce said. “They’re like part of our family.”

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The Door wouldn’t be able to function without help from the community. Private donors, churches and other community organizations rallied around The Door during its opening stages, donating money, clothes, furniture and labor. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Underlying inspiration

The idea to open a hybrid coffee shop and emergency shelter was something that came to Joyce naturally. After doing foster care in the past and working as a paraprofessional for 30 years, Joyce said that transitioning into a different caregiving role felt right.

“I really wasn’t looking for an idea . . . God just put it on my heart to do this,” Joyce said. “From then on it was all I wanted to do, it was just my passion.”

Kevin, who owns a construction company, helps run The Door while Joyce operates it full time. Since selling their own house, the couple has also been living at the home, making it easy for Joyce to care for the residents overnight.

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She said the decision to name the business “The Door” was a series of puzzle pieces that fell into place.

“It’s like a doorway into the next step,” she said about the name. “Leaving whatever past you have behind and stepping into the next chapter of your life.”

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The Door opened in March and is situated in a fully renovated historical home that was originally built in 1906. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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The Door, located at 155 First Ave. NE in Laporte, is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

During her research in the early days of her idea to open the business, Joyce discovered that “the door” translates to the French word “Laporte,” giving the name a perfect link to the town.

“When I first thought about the name ‘The Door,’ I didn’t even realize that,” Joyce said. “So that was really a cool connection.”

She then stumbled upon another connection. The man that originally built the house in 1906, CJ Stuart, was the town’s postmaster. At a time in history when the postmaster was in charge of naming the town, Stuart called it Laporte.

“The man that built the house named the town. It’s just full circle,” Joyce said. “It was really cool to find out different little details like that.”

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There are several sitting areas on the first floor of The Door, with a TV, games and cozy places to lounge on a cold afternoon. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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The Door wouldn’t be able to function without help from the community. Private donors, churches and other community organizations rallied around The Door during its opening stages, donating money, clothes, furniture and labor. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Shelter support

The business, Joyce said, wouldn’t be able to function without help from the community. Private donors, churches and other community organizations rallied around The Door during its opening stages, donating money, clothes, furniture and labor.

“Everything you see has been donated by the community,” Joyce said. “The tables, chairs and all the furniture upstairs have all been donated.”

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A variety of locally made and produced items are available for customers to buy at The Door. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Van Ellig, president of the Kabekona Lake Association, and his wife Joeve have breakfast on Monday, Dec. 28, 2021, at The Door. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Van Ellig, president of the Kabekona Lake Association, said the organization is one of many that makes donations to The Door.

“A lot of women who come here have nothing, they just have what they’re wearing,” Ellig said. “The Kabekona Lake Association donates dishes, couches, lamps and anything for an apartment because when they move out of here. . . they need everything.”

The Door also offers coffee from Heroes Rise, which donates 10% of its proceeds to the Lakeport Volunteer Fire and Rescue where Kevin serves as fire chief. Along with proceeds from the coffee shop, donations are what keep the shelter up and running.

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Heroes Rise coffee of Bemidji is also available at The Door, and 10% of its proceeds are donated to the Lakeport Volunteer Fire and Rescue. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

“The community has just been amazing,” Joyce said.

Those who would like to donate can visit The Door’s Facebook page . The Door is open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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