Transitional home for women with eating disorders opensby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A woman will move into a home in Minneapolis' Bryn Mawr neighborhood today, quietly signaling the opening of Minnesota's first transitional home for people with eating disorders.
The three-bedroom, two-story house was an anonymous gift to the St. Paul-based Emily Program, which runs eating disorder treatment centers in six Minnesota locations. The home faces a park and the downtown skyline. Its carefully furnished rooms are painted subdued colors. Eventually six women struggling to recover from eating disorders will live there together.
Director Jillian Croll said the program's clients have long asked for a place they could go after leaving treatment centers where they could transitional back into normal life. She said it helps to live with people who know exactly what they're going through.
"If nobody's around, nobody's going to know you didn't eat...so there's no accountability," Croll said. "So if you have somebody else here, even if they're not in any way responsible for you, they're still here to say, 'Hey, did you have dinner? It seems like you've been home for three hours and haven't eaten anything.'"
Croll said staff took special care in decorating the dining room, which resembles a greenhouse. The walls are mostly windows that showcase the green backyard and a bird feeder.
"We want them to be comfortable in this room," Croll said. "This can't be a stressful place."
Each of three floors has a common area, where Croll imagines the six tenants will sit and talk. The only mirrors are in the bathrooms. The only television is in the basement.
"They have to make a conscious choice to go downstairs and watch TV," Croll said. And she hopes that if programs have messages about body image, the women will discuss them together.
The women will pay rent that's average for the neighborhood, and the Emily Program expects the house will be financially self-sustaining. Tenants will be placed on a first-come, first-served basis, with a waiting list for those who aren't accepted immediately. They'll be on month-to-month leases and will leave when they and counselors decide it's best.
If all goes well, this will be the first of several Emily Program transitional homes, Croll said.