Meet The Staff

October Allen, Executive Director

(218) 341-7699,

What do you do as the Executive Director?

As Executive Director I oversee and provide support for all areas of our Long-Term Homeless Housing program. I strive to ensure quality of service and create meaningful experiences for the women who live in our homes. I also connect with community members and providers to enhance the lives of our participants.

What inspired you to do the work that you do?

There is a saying, "Be who you needed when you were younger."  I want to be that for the ladies in Grace Place. I want to be who I needed when I was in their shoes.

Some fun facts about you.

  • I am the first person ever in the history of my family to graduate college.
  • The girls in my family are named after the month they are born in.
  • My German Shepard's name is Shane. 
  • I love sushi.
  • I feel peace when I am on a prayer walk with my husband.

Cam Abernathy, LADC, Housing and Addiction Specialist

(914) 434-8945,

What do you do?

I help the women at Grace Place achieve their short- and long-term recovery goals and provide addiction education and life skills coaching to all locations. I also conduct house focus groups, assess needs, and provide assistance to utilize community resources/make referrals as needed. Most importantly, I just listen.

What inspired you to do the work you do?

Besides my own personal journey in recovery, I believe addiction forces us to address life’s deepest questions with no stone left unturned. I find it profoundly meaningful to help others navigate through that process.

Some fun facts about you

  • I grew up in New York. 
  • I lived in Asia for two years. 
  • I got married at Lutsen resort.
  • I hiked the Himalayas with Sherpas.
  • I was a finalist in major screenplay competition. 
  • My favorite movie is Lord of the Rings. 
  • I have been sober for a decade. 


Tara Voeltz, House Manager

(218) 391-0577,

What do you do?

As the housing manager, I provide direct support to the Grace Place residents. I do this by checking in and ensuring everyone has their basic needs met. I help with transportation, ordering household supplies, and assisting residents in community engagement while also making sure they are following the regulations of the program.

What inspired you to do the work you do?

I have always enjoyed helping people. I love seeing people accomplish things they did not think they were capable of. I have similar experiences as some of the Grace Place residents. I believe that I have a good understanding of the struggles they deal with. From my shared experiences and background, I hope to help them through theirs.

Fun facts.

  • I love spending time with family.
  • My husband and I got married on Park Point.
  • We have one son.
  • I have 3 cats.
  • I love fishing
  • I am the youngest of 5 siblings.

Rachel Nelson, BA Case Manager


What do you do?

I am the Case Manager for Grace Place and Zachary Place. I can also provide Housing Support Specialist Services to eligible persons in our program. My role with Grace Place and Zachary Place is flexible and dynamic! I get to support people in their recovery and housing goals by connecting them to supportive community resources, providing advocacy for their needs, and assisting in referrals for external services. The best part about my role is that I get to build relationships with people and work towards supporting them at whatever crossroads they may be at in their life.

What inspired you to do the work you do?

I find inspiration in doing the work I do every day. It's an ever-evolving experience for me. People that know me/ have worked with me can attest to me getting excited about working in teams and really finding creative ways to help people reach their goals.
I find a lot of value in good advocacy and building community relations. I have a lot of opportunities to provide advocacy and engage with the community in this line of work. I am also in pursuit of getting my Master's Degree in Social Work, so I will be working and interning at Grace Place throughout this process.

Some fun facts about you

  • I have traveled to 5 different countries so far
  • have two ferrets named Jackie and Louie!
  • I am the youngest sibling in a family with three older brothers
  • I am from Duluth, MN
  • My favorite scent, food, and color is orange :)


Heather Ranta, BSW Program Coordinator

(715) 813-7707,

What do you do?

As the Program Coordinator, I do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work. I spend a lot of my time at my computer organizing and creating documents as well as communicating with St. Louis County. When I am not at my computer, I am at the houses spending time with the wonderful people in our program!

What inspired you to do the work you do?

The clients at Grace Place inspired me to do the work I do. Before Grace Place, I was lost with no idea of what the future had in store. During my internship at Grace Place, I fell in love with the work and the people.

Some fun facts about you

  • I LOVE coffee!
  • I really enjoy baking.
  • I am 18 years older than my youngest sibling.
  • I would love to be a beekeeper!


Breanna Merritt, Office Administrator

What do you do?

As the office administrator at Grace Place, I am at the forefront of helping to get people in the door. I help with questions about our program, assist with eligibility inquiries and help people understand the intake process. When it comes to property management, I assist with and coordinate maintenance inspections and repairs at each of our homes. When new participants come into our program, I am the first to meet with them and get to know them. Whatever needs they have, I connect them to our amazing staff, other community resources, make referrals, and complete housing focused person-centered plans for each participant.

What inspired you to do the work you do?

My inspiration to help others and do the work I do is driven from personal experience with my background in being a direct support professional for almost 10 years, as well as experience of loved ones who may have been in similar situations as the people we serve. I believe there is such a need for the work we do here and I am so grateful I am able to be a part of that process and success for people!

Some fun facts

  • I am native American from Leech Lake band of Ojibwe.
  • I've completed a 200+ mile relay run from St. Paul to Duluth, MN twice now.
  • I am the youngest of 3. I have an older sister and brother.
  • I've snowboarded down the Rocky Mountains.
  • I'm currently learning to become fluent in Spanish.