DULUTH, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Community supporters and development and program partners welcomed newly moved-in families to the just completed Steve O’Neil Apartments during an official ribbon-cutting dedication ceremony and open house today.
During the event, the 44-unit permanent supportive-housing community and six-room emergency family shelter was officially named after former county commissioner Steve O’Neil, who passed away in 2013, for his life work and advocacy for the homeless. The opening marks a new chapter in the lives of newly moved-in residents who now have safe, affordable homes with onsite support services to help them live healthier lives and break the cycle of long-term homelessness.
“This is a proud moment for Duluth as we officially open the doors to this new apartment community, which for generations to come will serve families and their children who need a helping hand,” said Duluth Mayor Don Ness. “We can all sense Steve’s passion, vision and spirit in this building, and I believe he would be proud of what has been accomplished with the support of so many in our community.”
According to CHUM, which operates the family shelter and provides onsite support services for residents, there is a tremendous need for such a community in Duluth. Since 2009, the number of homeless families seeking emergency shelter at CHUM has doubled from about 35 families a year to more than 70. In 2013, 75 families came to CHUM, including 141 children, 128 of whom were under 12. Many of these families were headed by a single female parent who had experienced homelessness as a child.
The $12.8 million affordable-housing community, developed by Center City Housing Corporation (CCHC) and One Roof Community Housing with Wagner Zaun Architecture, Johnson Wilson Constructors and Rippley Richard Real Estate, was made possible through the support, dedication and generosity of many development and program partners, along with thousands of people who made personal donations.
“It has been an honor to have worked with so many in our community who have given their hearts and demonstrated so much compassion to make this dream a reality,” said Rick Klun, CCHC executive director, who hosted today’s ribbon-cutting along with Jeff Corey, executive director of One Roof Community Housing.
“Steve O’Neil Apartments is a model that gives hope and promise to the children and families who will now have stable, safe and affordable homes, and the care and support they need,” said Corey.
UnitedHealth Group, in a partnership with Minnesota Equity Fund, was the largest investor in the project, providing $10.5 million in equity through Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) that were awarded by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA).
Additional capital financing and funding was provided by Greater Minnesota Housing Fund ($500,000), CHUM ($450,000), the Federal Home Loan Bank–Des Moines/Republic Bank ($300,000), St. Louis County HRA ($250,000), the City of Duluth HOME Program ($244,000), NeighborWorks America ($95,000), Minnesota Power ($46,000), Comfort Systems ($27,000) and LISC ($10,000). The Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) and Duluth LISC provided predevelopment financing, and GMHF provided construction and acquisition financing. Permanent acquisition capital was provided by Duluth CDBG Program, Duluth Economic Development Authority, Center City Housing Corp. and One Roof Community Housing.
“UnitedHealth Group is grateful for the opportunity to be among the many partners investing in this important community development,” said John Miklausich, site director for UnitedHealthcare’s offices in Duluth, where the company employs more than 1,300 people. “Steve O’Neil Apartments provides the kind of care and support that’s so critical to helping lift families out of homelessness and live healthier lives.”
Steve O’Neil Apartments, managed by D.W. Jones, is located in the heart of downtown Duluth and offers one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments to families that qualify for government rental-assistance programs, which enable residents to pay no more than 30 percent of their income for rent. The development is close to jobs and public transportation, and includes features such as open floor plans, energy-efficient appliances, parking, a community room, children’s outdoor playground, and 24-hour onsite management and security for residents.
Support services and programming for children and families are community-based and socially interactive, and affect the whole environment a family experiences. These include:
- a Family Coaching Center to help families identify their hopes and dreams, and provide support and encouragement in reaching them;
- an early childhood center for toddlers ages 1-3 and preschoolers ages 3-5;
- after-school activities for school-aged children;
- a computer and library center for children and adults;
- classes, recreation, cooking, exercise room and support groups; and
- assistance in accessing services for adults and children such as job placement, educational resources, counseling and coordination with health care providers.
“Our goal is to work together with our partners to break the generational cycle of homelessness by building strong families within a supportive community,” said Lee Stuart, executive director of CHUM. “The community culture at Steve O’Neil Apartments supports families settling into their new homes, invites them to develop a sense of belonging in their new community, and helps provide growth and development through positive social networks and support services.”
Twenty-three families have moved in as of the end of January. The building will be fully occupied by mid-March.
In honor of Steve O’Neil, a Community Housewarming Registry has been established to help the new residents with furnishings and household items. There are also opportunities for community volunteers to serve as mentors and family companions to support the residents and their families. More information is available by calling 218-720-6521.
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