Churches United in Ministry

two mothers hold their children

Helping homeless families in Duluth find new refuge

Families experiencing homelessness in St. Louis County have a new place to get back on their feet thanks to Churches United in Ministry (CHUM), a human services agency governed by 43 congregations in the Duluth area.

The Mardag Foundation invested in six units of emergency family shelter in Steve O’Neil Apartments, CHUM’s latest supportive housing venture. CHUM opened its doors to families in December 2014. In the last year alone, their emergency family shelter housed 107 people making up 29 households; 55 of those 107 were children under the age of 12.

“The cost of not investing in these peoples’ lives is incalculable,” said Lee Stuart, executive director of CHUM. “These children are innocent. They are born into tough situations, and it’s important to invest in them because you never know who will grow up to be the next Einstein or Mozart.”

CHUM’s emergency shelter addresses an area of high need in St. Louis County. According to Wilder Research’s latest point- in-time homeless count, an estimated 627 people experience homelessness on any given night and 175 of those are children accompanied by their parents.

On average, Steve O’Neil Apartments’ family shelter houses 24 people. Most families need between 45-60 days to regain their footing. While each family has a unique story, many find themselves in shelter because a lost job, medical emergency or other financial stressor left them unable to afford their previous housing.

CHUM meets these families where they are at, providing a much-needed roof over their heads, but also a suite of stabilization services to help families rebound. CHUM’s housing advocates meet with families weekly to discuss options, facilitate a savings program, help families re-enroll or keep children in school and assist parents in securing benefits and employment.

“We are so grateful for the support of our community, including Mardag Foundation. It’s been such an outpouring of support and the chance it’s given families to catch their breath, be safe and lay the groundwork for the next step in their lives is amazing,” said Stuart.