Bill to build two housing complexes for Duluth's homeless population introduced

Emily Ness
Updated: March 10, 2021 01:42 PM
Created: March 05, 2021 07:17 PM

While the weather has been warming up, bearing the elements during the Northland's cold stretches can be brutal—especially for those experiencing homelessness. But, a bill introduced by a Northland lawmaker this week aims to improve that by building additional housing for the homeless.

“The legislation is an idea that was brought to me by One Roof Community Housing," Rep. Liz Olson (D-Duluth) said "Their idea is to look at a pilot model for how we could build housing for folks experiencing homelessness."

If passed, the bill would grant One Roof Community Housing $3 million to build two new housing complexes.

Jeff Corey, Executive Director of One Roof Housing, said each complex would be two stories high and would have 12 single units each to house a total of 24 people experiencing homelessness.

“The plan is a very modern design. Large windows, some built in storage in each of the rooms. They would be sort of dormitory style, but they would be big enough to have a toilet, a sink, a shower and a kitchenette,” Corey said.

Corey explained that the reason behind single units is because singles equate for the largest population of Northlanders experiencing homelessness right now.

“It makes sense to design housing efficiently for the population of folks who need it the most and that’s largely single folks,” Corey said.

According to Corey, the units would serve as permanent housing, meaning tenants could stay as long as they needed. They would be required to pay rent, but Corey said they would do so through assistance from the state.

“The notion is that it’s a safe place that they don’t have to worry about losing,” Corey said.

Where the complexes would be built is still being decided at this time, but Corey said they aim to build both complexes near a bus line so people can get to and from the places they need to go.

“Some might make dramatic improvements in their life because they are in a stable place that they weren’t in previously, so they can start piecing things together and moving on,” Corey said.

Now that the bill has been introduced, Olson said it will go to the housing committee for a hearing in the near future, at which point she hopes it will be included in the state's bigger conversation about budget.

“My hope is that as a state, we can show Minnesotans that we care about them no matter where they are in their journey and that we want to make sure that housing is a human right,” Olson said.

If the bill passes, Corey hopes the project could be a pilot project that inspires future projects across the state.

“If we can demonstrate with doing two of these buildings that it’s a great way to house people that otherwise might be on the street or in a shelter, then perhaps we could put together a program across the state,” Corey said.

Olson said we should know by the end of the year whether the bill passes.

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Emily Ness

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