Shelter and second chances at San Marco

By Elizabeth Strawn Kelley Prock’s desk is full of annual reports ready to be finished, a phone, a 2-way radio that rings off the hook and a door that is continually revolving with staff members and residents asking questions. Prock’s title is administrative assistant at the San Marco Apartments, but her job entails more than the title offers.

What may go unnoticed is the poster above her desk that displays a single tree with the word "change" beneath it.

“I am a firm believer in second chances, second chances are a big thing around here,” said Prock. “If someone is having a problem, I call them into my office; we sit down and make a plan. They hang the plan up on their door in their room so they see it each time they walk out of their door."

San Marco Apartments offers 30 units for chronic alcoholics, as well as 40 long-term efficiency units for homeless people.

“It is not treatment, it is housing for chronic alcoholics,” Prock said. “In my opinion, they all deserve somewhere to live.”

Prock graduated from University of Minn. Duluth in 2007 with a degree in Criminology and Psychology. She applied at San Marco because, for some reason, the job posting stuck out to her. After working the front desk for a few months, Prock moved up to her current job.

Prock is aware that San Marco has received some heat for being controversial, but she believes in the work that they do.

“The cruel facts of life are that Alcoholism is a disease, not a choice, and when we give tours here, people see that the residents could be their mother, brother, neighbor.”

Progress comes in many forms, and Prock sees the little things as the most rewarding.

She told a story about a resident who came to San Marco that drank a gallon of vodka a day. Eventually he was only drinking three beers a day.

“If they do step off of the wagon, they aren’t kicked out,” said Prock. “They are able to experiment with what works for them.”

The tough reality is that the residents living on the higher-needs side of the apartments are not going to enter the work force again, considering many of them are chronic alcoholics or disabled.

Unfortunately, Prock has known people who have died while living there, but she believes they get to “die with dignity.”

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