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Hibbing's new homeless shelter finds home

$1.3 million in rehab and renovation work is expected to be completed.

A cream-colored former nursing home facility entrance with a staircase leading up to it.
This former memory care nursing home facility is poised to be home to a new Hibbing homeless shelter operated by the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune
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HIBBING — Approximately 56 people may have a place to stay in the coming months as a new homeless shelter is planned for a former memory care nursing home.

The operator of the shelter, the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, recently received preliminary approval to purchase the building at 2313 Third Ave. E. in Hibbing using $1.87 million in American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 recovery funding at a St. Louis County Board committee-of-the-whole meeting. It goes for final approval in front of the board Tuesday.

The need is there as the agency currently runs one 12-unit shelter, Bill's House in Virginia, and a 15-unit Youth Foyer also in Virginia, and rents 18 hotel rooms at the Rodeway Inn in Hibbing to provide housing in the area in addition to two apartment rentals. These units have provided emergency shelter to 503 individuals.

Nevertheless, Executive Director Scott Zahorik said the nonprofit turned away approximately 886 people last year, and 3,364 in the past three years, due to lack of space.

"The need is huge," Zahorik said. "And the problem is going the wrong way over the last few years between COVID and the economy. Something like 59% of Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless. These people are your friends, neighbors, and other people we know."

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The shelter would replace the 18 hotel rentals and serve as a center for people to connect with other services, according to Angie Neil, assistant director of housing at the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency.

"We started with those rentals when we were able to get some additional funds through St. Louis County in 2019 and started renting those units," Neil said. "But over the last year, we've been thinking, if we were able to purchase a building, we wouldn't have to spend all this money in rent for those units and we could put that money to more staffing and more services for our participants at the shelter. Then we found this building and it started to fall into place."

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Zahorik called the new shelter, "an investment in the community" which will provide supportive services to community members, including families that are escaping domestic violence and veterans. Residents at the shelter would be provided with resources such as ongoing case management, assistance filling out SNAP applications, expedited diagnostic assessment for mental health services, access to food shelves, and assistance with section 8 housing applications.

"It's not just a place to sleep," Neil said. "It's a chance for people to get things taken care of in order to set up and sustain their housing and we can help get them there."

Neil said she hopes to see people in the building as soon as the beginning of the year, pending the purchase and other approvals. After purchasing the building, $1.3 million in rehab and renovation work is expected to be completed. The agency is currently taking donations as well as applying for other grant opportunities to fund the work.

"So, we'll have our hands full for a little bit, but this is something that we've got to get right. We have a huge need in our community. It's going to take some work but we're pretty proud to be involved with it," Zahorik said.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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