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Group says Edina perfect place for youth homeless center

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Traditionally viewed as an affluent suburb, Edina might seem like an odd place for a new apartment complex for homeless and at-risk youth, but planners say it is the perfect location.

The Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, which is spearheading the project, says providers who help homeless and at-risk youth serve between 200 and 300 young people in the western suburbs each year, but there are no shelter beds or permanent housing options dedicated to youths in the area. Their only option is to go to Minneapolis, where there's already a shortage of space in shelters, the Sun Current notes.

That's why the organization plans to convert and expand the TCF Bank building near the Southdale Mall into a 39-unit apartment building. Beacon believes the residents will mostly be 18- or 19-year-olds who haven't finished high school, so the complex would also include space for counselors to help the teens finish school and find jobs, the Star Tribune says.

Beacon says the Southdale area is an ideal location. Jobs are plentiful at the mall and medical service businesses, which typically have many openings for entry-level positions. And the site is across the street from a major transit hub and nearby the library, government center and even the YMCA, MPR News notes.

Beacon has partnered with the Edina Community Lutheran Church, and has support of numerous other churches, to build the apartments, which would create a long-term solution for young people rather than a temporary fix, the Sun Current says. Most residents would stay for about a year or two before moving on to the next stage in their life.

The Star Tribune notes that projects like this are complex. Beacon, which says it has acquired the building, needs to raise money for the $9 million project, which could come from federal low-income housing tax credits, rental assistance from groups like the Metropolitan Council and money from the state and county. The Edina Community Lutheran Church has also committed $80,000 to the project, the newspaper notes.

Beacon, which has made presentations to Edina's Planning Commission and will do another before the City Council next week, says projects like this can take two to five years to complete. Beacon officially launched the project on Wednesday at the Colonial Church in Edina.

Beacon has been apart of similar projects in the past. In 2010, it opened Nicollet Square, which provides youth housing in the Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis, and it's currently working on another housing complex, Prior Crossing, in St. Paul.

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