MOORHEAD – After three years of couch surfing and homelessness, Robert May moved into his permanent home Monday, March 19, at 3305 3rd Ave N.
Arriving on his bike carrying two full bags, May came inside and waited patiently to sign his lease.
The 41-year-old signed up for an efficiency unit at Bright Sky Apartments, a new 43-unit apartment complex in Moorhead with permanent supportive housing for the previously homeless, after receiving treatment for alcoholism and wanting a fresh start.
“I’ve been bouncing back and forth between friends for years, and I thought there had to be something better than that,” May said.
He and several others on Monday got their apartment keys and moved into their fully furnished apartments after going from shelter to shelter.
Churches United for the Homeless headed the project, which was proposed five years ago when the emergency shelter was continuously overflowing. Many of the tenants in units there will come directly from that shelter.
According to Churches United Executive Director Sue Koesterman, the building has 22 one-bedroom and efficiency units, and the remaining 21 have two, three or four bedrooms. They range in monthly rent from $643 to $1056.
The $8 million project was mostly funded by a Minnesota Housing Finance Authority loan of $5.08 million. The rest was supplemented by tax credit investors and local contributions.
Anyone moving into the apartment will have been homeless for a while.
“Chronic homelessness is usually accompanied by other barriers like mental health issues, addiction, aging out of familial support, physical disabilities, etc.,” Koesterman said.
She said the apartment complex will prioritize elderly homeless people for the building’s efficiency and one-bedroom units. Those are the people who often live in dormitories with a dozen other people, she said.
“Now they can have a door to shut and watch what they want to watch on TV,” she said.
Shelby Hunter, a mother of five, was among the first to move in Monday. She’s lived at shelters like Churches United and the YWCA for the past year, and said she was homeless for three years leading up to that.
Her preschool-aged son expressed excitement about having a home, declaring that he would sleep on the top bunk.
Hunter will pay 30 percent of the monthly rent, with area housing assistance programs helping to cover the rest.
“I didn’t think I was going to get something like this, no. This is beyond what I even could have imagined,” she said.
All units in the building are handicapped-accessible and stocked to meet basic needs, with amenities including towels, beds and bedding, clocks, living room furniture, a kitchen table, basic appliances and utensils. Each apartment has one smart TV, and tenants can access computers on the main floor of the apartment complex.
Other features for all guests include a playground and room for kids, as well as a craft room, community room and exercise room.
Tenants will have limited freedoms, such as restrictions on how many guests they can have over at the same time, daily checks on residents and routine inspections of apartment units.
Deanna Fajardo is moving into one of the efficiencies here after years of homelessness that included occasionally staying with some of her eight children who are all adults now.
Even if she arrived with only a few bags of clothes and linens, she said she was excited to get into her new apartment.
“I actually have my own place now,” she said. “I can finally feel good about myself.”