With community pitching in, new apartments to be more like homes


Leaders at CHUM, a local non-profit, say they are on track to complete construction of the Steve O’Neil Apartments, which, when they open in December or January, will provide not just a shelter but a permanent home for many families in the Duluth community. They are now asking the community to go online and purchase the items that will furnish these homes. The new apartments will include 44 units of permanent housing and six emergency shelter units. Mary Lu Larsen, a family housing advocate at CHUM, said it’s the long-term housing that makes this project unique. “I am very excited about the thought that a baby could be born while living at the apartments, and that baby could graduate high school, and that we can help create that stability,” Larsen said. CHUM, short for Churches United in Ministry, is a Duluth non-profit agency that provides emergency food, shelter, advocacy and outreach. The apartments are located at 101-109 W. 4th St. in the Central Hillside neighborhood. One Roof community housing, a non-profit organization, is one of the co-developers working with the Center City Housing Corporation on the construction of the project. Jeff Corey, executive director with One Roof, said they are getting closer to finishing the building process on the apartments. It has taken about four and a half years of planning for this project to get to where it is now. The actual construction began about a year ago. Center City Housing Corporation will soon be the owner of the apartments, Corey said. “It’s a pure pleasure to work on something making such a difference,” Corey said. CHUM is asking the community to use the Community Housewarming Registry to help furnish the new apartments. The online registry allows people to both donate cash amounts as well as pick out specific items they would like to donate. The website allows potential donors to basically go shopping online for the items they would like to donate, just like they would for a wedding. A donor could offer to pay as much as $7,000 to furnish an entire three-bedroom apartment. Or, they could pay as little as $11 for a broom and dustpan. Once they’ve selected the items, they proceed to checkout and can make the purchase using a PayPal account. CHUM organizers said that they have had quite a response but still need a lot more. Quite a few rooms have been furnished from this registry, and a few 1-2 bedroom apartments have already been sold to be furnished, said organizers at CHUM. The apartments are named in honor of the late Steve O’Neil, a St. Louis County Commissioner who donated money and time in supporting a number of different non-profit organizations including CHUM. O’Neil died in July of 2013. Angie Miller, the widow of Steve O’Neil, said his passion for community involvement all goes back to the family he grew up in and the faith he grew up with. Miller said that, as she and her husband grew older, they realized that it was their passion to make the world a better place. O’Neil worked for social change. When families have moved into the apartments and have somewhere to call home, they will be able to reflect and start their own dreams, CHUM organizers said. “We want to help build community and foster a sense of connectedness,” Larsen said. “We have been spending a lot of time helping. I am really excited to see it all unfold and how people will be nourished there.”

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