CHUM Carries on the Legacy of Steve O'Neil Through the Emergency Shelter Project

By KBJR News 1

August 6, 2013 Updated Aug 6, 2013 at 6:34 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Just weeks after the memorial service for Commissioner Steve O'Neil, site demolition for the Emergency Family Shelter and Hillside Apartments that will bear his name has begun.

Those involved in the project feel it's a fitting tribute to the life's work of the late commissioner.

"He was a very very modest guy," said Rick Klun, Executive Director of Center City Housing.

Those who knew Steve O'Neil say that he would be honored to have a building named after him but that he would be most proud of what the facility will do for those in need.

The Steve O'Neil Apartment project is an $11.2 million project that will provide 44 permanent supportive housing units as well as 6 emergency shelter units for long term homeless families.

"It's going to be a safe place to live... it's going to be an affordable place to live... it's going to be a place where people can rebuild their lives and have a fresh start," said Klun.

The emergency family shelter will be operated by CHUM and they will also provide supportive services to those living in the facility.

"Most of the families who will come into this project will have been homeless for more than a year, or 3 times in the last 4 years," said Lee Stuart, Executive Director of CHUM.

Stuart says that being able to tell the children who move into the apartments that their life being homeless is over, and knowing that they have a warm community of support to grow up in is by far the most exciting part of this project.

"It will provide a new opportunity for really 50 families in Duluth to have a stable life and raise their children in safety," said Stuart.

The Steve O'Neil Emergency Family Shelter and Hillside Apartments are expected to be available for permanent housing in about 14 months.

The apartments will be built on the northwest corner of 4th Street and 1st Avenue West, bringing a new atmosphere to one of the most blighted blocks in the neighborhood.

"It's going to be a lot of nice homes for a lot of people," said David Eilola, a West 4th Street resident.

The goal for the housing unit is to prevent long-term, chronic homelessness for families in Duluth.

"When we start handing families the keys to their apartments, that's going to be a great day," said Stuart.

Steve O'Neil dedicated his life to helping low-income families in need, and Stuart says having these apartments in his name will allow his legacy to live on.

Elsa Robins