Years After Kozy Fire, Some Still Left Homeless

By KBJR News 1

November 18, 2012 Updated Nov 18, 2012 at 11:00 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - When winter hits the Northland, if you don't have a warm place to stay, you're in big trouble.

That's what's making a number of low income people very nervous these days.

"After the Kozy burned down they—I've just been living here and there."

The Kozy Bar and Apartments housed more than 50 residents at the time of the 2010 fire that led to its closure.

Between living under a bridge and sleeping on his friends couches former Kozy resident Gary Bishop hasn't found anywhere that he can afford to live.

"You know I'm just glad I have lots of friends. I mean I can stay at their place just long enough for them to get sick of me and then I can move on to my next friend," Gary Bishop, a homeless man, said.

The fire that burned the 2–hundred year old building, not only destroyed the structure, but also damaged the lives of many of the tenants.

"I wouldn't have minded so much if it was in the summer, I mean I could handle that. But it's getting cold out. I just need a place, I really do," Bishop said.

When residents were forced to relocate some found affordable housing at places like King Manor, The Seaway Hotel, and emergency shelter beds at CHUM. But not everyone was that lucky.

Bishop blames a shortage of low cost housing in Duluth for his dilemma.

"It's been tough, it's been tough," Bishop said.

Within the last two years, the 62 year old from Virginia...

"I'm a ranger," Bishop said.

...has had difficulties in landing a job.

"It's kind of tough finding work around here. You've got all these young kids and stuff taking up, you know—they don't need an old buzzard like me," Bishop said.

Bishop is one of dozens who were left stranded by the Kozy fire.

"We did have a rush of people here and we were able to handle some of them. Many of them have moved on to other places," Rick Caya, Seaway Hotel owner said.

One of those places was the Seaway Hotel. Owner Rick Caya says the old apartment building serves a need for low, and extremely low, income people in the Northland.

"People come and go so much, but generally we are fairly full," Caya said.

The Seaway has been a viable option for some 80 people but its days could be numbered. The building is threatened with condemnation, especially after the June floods caused extensive damage to the already deteriorating structure.

Another former Kozy resident has been homeless for weeks but recently was able to find affordable housing at Kingsley Heights on Second Street in Duluth.

Meanwhile property owner Eric Ringsred and his business partner are applying for financing to renovate the Kozy into 34 low–income units.

He's hoping to hear on funding approval by this time next year.
Until then, a social worker at CHUM is helping Bishop find a place to live.

"She finally said, she found an apartment for me, I'm probably going to be checking that out," Bishop said.

Meanwhile several low income housing projects are underway in Duluth including the Firehouse Flats on Fourth Street along with the Hillside Apartments.

Together, they will create roughly 70 units of low income housing.

Justin Reis, NNC.