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Park Place helps house homeless, chronic inebriates, officials say

Park Place Apartments is located at 600 Third Street NW. (Pioneer file photo)

BEMIDJI -- Park Place Apartments in Bemidji is at capacity and those numbers are meeting the goals of Duluth-based management company Center City Housing.

“We’re coming up on a year of being open, and we’ve maintained our full occupancy with some very small exceptions,”  said Rick Klun, Center City Housing executive director.

Klun said that when Park Place opened in downtown Bemidji in early November 2017, the goal was to be filled by the end of February. “We missed that goal by three days, but we’re still proud of that,” he said. “We’ve housed 50 people that were formerly homeless in that short period of time.”

The Park Place Apartments building at 598 Third St. has two sections -- a 40 units are dedicated to single-room occupancy for those with chronic substance abuse issues and a 20-unit section with efficiency apartments for the recently homeless. The complex cost $7 million to build and the project as a whole was estimated at $10.8 million.

The mission of Park Place is to provide safe housing to those who’re homeless or suffering from addiction, while also facilitating those needs through off-premise services, such as addiction treatment and mental health care, officials said. Additionally, the complex has a halftime nurse provided by Sanford Health and two case managers who help residents.

“The goal of this building is to provide permanent supportive housing on both sections,” Klun said. “We’re not a transitional housing program. Our goal, is to keep the residents housed.”

“Many of the individuals currently residing there have been living there since Day 1,” Center City Regional Housing Director Lori Reilly said. “We had more than 300 applicants when we first opened and there have only been a few individuals who do leave for a variety of reasons.”

While the apartments have been open for less than a year, Site Director Brittany Bennett said the feedback from tenants has been positive.

“We have seen our own little community from inside Park Place, where people look out for each other and hold each other accountable,” Bennett said. “Everybody gets involved in keeping Park Place safe, as well as keeping it like they would want their own homes to be kept.”

“The testimonials we’ve heard from the tenants are really consistent. People like it, they feel safe,” Klun said.

Along with the Park Place community, Bennett said the relationship with the rest of Bemidji has been integral in making the complex a safe, comfortable place to live.

“We’ve had a lot of support from all of the local agencies we’ve been working with,” Bennett said. “Notably, I’d say the Bemidji Police Department has been amazing. We’ve been learning from each other and have been really patient with each other, which I think helps us in our partnership.”

However, the complex has experienced one fatality since opening. In its second month of operation, on Dec. 24, Park Place resident Gordon Norris, 31, was found dead outside the complex. According to a press release from the Bemidji Police Department, Norris was seen on security footage falling outside and was unable to get back up. Police say Norris succumbed to injuries sustained during the fall and the extreme cold.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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