A faith-based residential addiction recovery program in downtown Duluth is expanding.

Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, 2 E. Second St., has purchased a former apartment building next door and is embarking on major remodeling to make the two buildings one and add to its number of beds, said Jocelyn Nelson, prevention program coordinator for the program.

Total cost: $1.625 million, Nelson said. That includes the $400,000 price of the four-story Chatham building, which was purchased in March. The organization has raised $1.275 million to date, she said, including a recent $10,000 gift from the Minnesota Power Foundation.

There's a narrow gap between the two buildings, but at the back only a wall separates them. With the remodeling, the two will be joined by a walkway on two floors, said Brandon Torgerson, the program's director. All of the residential clients will be moved from the main building, built in 1915, to the Chatham, which was built in 1906 and had tenants as recently as three weeks ago.

The apartment building recently purchased by the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
The apartment building recently purchased by the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

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When remodeling is complete, the facility will be able to house 62 men, Torgerson said, up from 54 currently. It has the potential to house 70 or more, but the licensing currently sets the limit at 62.

But even an increase of eight will make a difference, Nelson said.

“That's a 15 percent increase, and while eight beds doesn't seem like a lot, every bed has the potential to save a life,” she said.

Teen Challenge is a Christian addiction recovery program founded by street evangelist David Wilkerson in 1958 in New York City. The Minnesota version began in 1983 as Minnesota Teen Challenge and eventually added “Adult and” to its title to reflect its mostly grownup clientele.

The Duluth campus, established in 2006, offers a 13-month residential treatment program and a 90-day residential program for men. It leases a building on First Street for an outpatient program for men and women. That will be relocated to the 2 E. Second St. building when remodeling is complete, Torgerson said. Everyone in residential treatment begins in the 90-day program.

People from all religious backgrounds are welcome, Nelson said.

The program offers a holistic approach to treatment, she said.

“In addition to the physical care, spiritual and mental health as well have been really huge for us,” Nelson said. “Especially in the last year or so we've been really emphasizing ... well-rounded care, and we’ve found that to be very successful.”

She cited two studies by the Wilder Foundation in which three out of four Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge graduates of the long-term residential program reported no alcohol or drug abuse issues in the first six months after completion.

Torgerson, who has been at the Duluth campus for three years and served as director for a year and a half, said Teen Challenge long has been interested in the Chatham Building and moved quickly when it became available.

The timing is good, he said, as the facility frequently is at capacity with people waiting to enter the program and opioids and other drugs are taking an increasing toll.

"Something that's somewhat overlooked, too, is the methamphetamine use is continuing to rise also," he said. "It's really scary stuff out there. So we want to open up more beds to get more people in so we don't have those waiting lists. And together with our community, we can help people fight their addictions."

Many of the apartments have fine antique details that the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge are looking to preserve when they remodel the facility. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Many of the apartments have fine antique details that the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge are looking to preserve when they remodel the facility. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Besides relocating the beds and providing more of them, the remodeling will provide a new library, more recreational space, more space for visitors and additional office space for staff members, Nelson said. Also, the outpatient program will be relocated to the main building.

There’s currently a staff of about 50 full- and part-time employees, she said, but when the expansion is complete, a few more recovery coaches and licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselors will be added.

It’s hoped the renovation will be completed by early 2020, Nelson said.

On a tour of the Chatham building on Wednesday, Torgerson pointed with enthusiasm to a section of hardwood floor that has been refinished by a volunteer.

A recently restored hardwood floor in one of the apartments in the apartment building recently purchased by the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
A recently restored hardwood floor in one of the apartments in the apartment building recently purchased by the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

"We're overwhelmed with the support of people," he said. "We've been announcing it to different churches that we go visit ... just sharing our exciting news that we're expanding and we're going to help more people. People are supporting (us) financially and wanting to come and get their hands dirty to help. It's been overwhelming. And we're so grateful."

To learn more

Go to the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Duluth's website to learn more. If you’re interested in contributing, click on “Support our Northland Expansion.”