St. Luke’s joins CHUM to double housing project

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You might not normally associate hospitals with housing, but that’s changing in Duluth.

St. Luke’s has joined CHUM to nearly double the size of a facility that provides housing to seniors who would otherwise be homeless. CHUM was already leasing the first floor of the former Duluth Inn to provide housing under the new name St. Francis Apartments.

St. Luke’s announced Wednesday that it will buy the entire building and expand the number of apartments from 22 to 43. The health care organization will provide building maintenance while CHUM connects people with housing.

"It might feel strange that a healthcare institution is getting involved in housing, but we know that stable housing is foundational to good health. This partnership will help 43 individuals who are currently homeless, or on the verge of homelessness, have a safe and supportive place to call home," St. Luke’s President and CEO Dr. Nicholas Van Deelen explained.

"This is really a fantastic way that we can work together towards a healthier Duluth," he said.

Timothy Tollsman already lives in the St. Francis Apartments and expressed gratitude for getting help with housing.

"I was a victim of circumstance. I think most homeless people are a victim of an event beyond their control, either by nature or by some people," Tollsman said.

"I’m really glad, like a good Samaritan, CHUM and St. Luke’s are helping the people who have been a victim of circumstance," he said.

The City of Duluth provided funding to make sure rents were covered before some of the money came in. Mayor Emily Larson said this is an example of what Duluth is capable of doing.

"It may be different for us that healthcare is getting into housing, but we know that housing is an issue of education, it’s an issue of workforce, it’s an issue of health, and it’s an issue of public safety. When people are housed, when they have what they need, we all do better — that’s just how this works," Larson said.

CHUM Executive Director John Cole said its fitting that the two organizations have partnered since both have roots in the churches of Duluth.