In this file photo, Sondra Blue, program director and graduate of the Rainbow Village program, gives a tour of the new apartment buildings to Van Fletcher, a supporter of the facility, following an event in Duluth.
DULUTH -- "Happy are they who dwell in your house," a crowd of 200 read aloud from Psalm 84 on Friday, standing before apartments built to help families struggling with homelessness.
The $2.2 million apartment building is the first phase of a new home for the nonprofit Rainbow Village, which has guided hundreds of people to break the cycle of homelessness since 1991.
On Friday, an Episcopal bishop blessed the building, which will become home to 10 families currently working to better their lives and help the nonprofit assist two more families right away. It was also a celebration of the volunteers, supporters and benefactors who have helped raise enough money for the second phase of the project -- construction on a community center to begin in the coming months -- and are well on their way to funding 18 more apartments.
"It really is a glorious day," said the Rev. Nancy Yancey, the nonprofit's chief executive officer. "It takes a dedicated community of support to break the cycle of homelessness, domestic violence. ... It is such a wonderful blessing to watch the families of Rainbow Village be transformed into new creations."
Sondra Blue, a graduate of the program who now works for the nonprofit, showed guests through one of the 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath apartments, thinking back on what it would have meant to her own family when they were homeless.
"It meant stability. I was able to keep my family intact," Blue said of the program. She said she isn't sure her children would be the same without the help the nonprofit offered. "It feels so good to be able to tell a woman with her kids ... if I can make it, you can make."
While grateful for the small, aged apartment her family used during their time in the program, Blue said she is "blown away" by the new apartments. "Walking through that door, I don't feel homeless," she said. "It's like someone thinks I deserve good things too."
Rainbow Village provides transitional housing as well as life-skills lessons, mental health and financial counseling, as well as after-school programs for the children. Clients can stay in the housing up to two years.
At Friday's event, Yancey announced that the apartment buildings would be named in honor of Lawrenceville residents Clyde and Sandra Strickland, who donated $1 million for the construction.
Another anonymous benefactor donated $100,000, asking for the nonprofit's board room to be named after the Rev. Joel P. Hudson, who helped found the program through his work at Christ Episcopal Church.