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Mahube to build homeless shelter

Hopefully by this time next year, West River Apartments will be housing the homeless.

Mahube Community Council and the Becker County Economic Development Authority are partnering to build a 12-unit permanent, townhouse-style housing for the homeless.

"It will be for long-term homeless families with minor children," said Skip Carpenter, a development consultant of Cornerstone Development Services hired to write the grant.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $1.8 million, which is being covered completely through grants.

The two entities received grants from Minnesota Housing for $1.4 million, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund for $217,300, Bremer Foundation for $50,000, Federal Bank of Des Moines for $108,000, Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation for $24,000, Detroit Lakes Development Authority for $8,000 and Minnesota Housing Partnership for $3,000 for stormwater design. The Corporation for Supportive Housing also put up $140,000 to hire Carpenter as a consultant, hire an architect and to purchase the land for the site.

The town homes will be two and three bedroom units with an upstairs and main level except for the handicapped accessible unit, which is on one level. There is a second unit that can be converted into a handicapped accessible unit if needed. They will be located a couple blocks behind Mahube at the corner of 11th Avenue and Garnet Boulevard.

In the partnership between the EDA and Mahube, the EDA will own the buildings and manage them. Mahube will provide services for the residents.

Some of the services Mahube will offer include benefits assistance, chemical health, child care, legal aid, domestic abuse, education, employment, independent living, budgeting, mental health care and on-site meals (teaching residents to cook for themselves).

"We will integrate these clients with those services," Mahube Director Leah Pigatti said.

After a selection process, residents will have the opportunity to live in the units "as long as they want as long as they abide by the house rules," Carpenter said.

Of course the hope of Mahube and the EDA is for the residents to get on their feet, learn from the services Mahube provides and eventually move out and support themselves -- possibly moving to housing that may be built in the future in the same vicinity as the homeless housing.

The land where the project will take place includes a park and two areas for future buildings.

"It's not just to provide housing, but those services is the key to this," Carpenter said.

Residents in the homeless housing will pay 30 percent of their income as rent. Since many times there is no job, the families will be supported until they can find employment and can help pay the rent.

While some may scoff at the idea of helping the homeless financially and with special housing, Carpenter said it's actually proven to be cheaper to help with housing than with emergency room costs and other costs associated with homelessness. It is also proven that high school dropout rates will decrease with housing help.

The project will be "successful in that people have responsibility," Pigatti said.

There are only 12 units in the housing project, but Family Development Director Marcia Otte said it's not going to be a problem to fill.

"The demand far exceeds the availability," she said.

Fargo is the closest city with permanent homeless housing. There are several other cities with temporary, or transitional, housing, including Detroit Lakes, but not permanent housing.

"I don't think it's going to be an issue," Carpenter said of filling the town homes.

All involved are quick to point out the partnership between Mahube and the EDA.

"This is a true partnership of two non-profit agencies," Carpenter said, adding that is what makes the project unique.

He said it usually takes agencies five years or more to receive grants and funding for homeless projects, but it only took Mahube and the EDA two years. The first year they applied, they were turned down, but this second time, the grant was given for the amount requested.

Pigatti said she thinks the partnership between the EDA and Mahube is the reason for the successful funding.

"That's a real strength. That's why it's funded after two tries and not five," she said.

Regardless of how many tries, Mahube and the EDA are preparing to help the homeless as best they can.

"I wish we could serve (everyone) but that's not possible," Otte said.