Hamilton Habitat goes “above and beyond” to provide affordable housing in Grand Marais
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Hamilton Habitat goes “above and beyond” to provide affordable housing in Grand Marais

Before connecting with Anna Hamilton nearly eight months ago, Kristi Silence, a nurse at the Care Center in Grand Marais, struggled to purchase an affordable home or property in Cook County, as many single-income individuals have.

Silence grew up in Grand Marais, graduated from Cook County High School, and, after leaving for college for a short time, returned to her hometown to work at the Care Center and stay close to family and friends. “I’ve been here pretty much my entire life,” she said.

Before the pandemic, Silence decided she was ready to take the next step and purchase a home in Cook County. However, the nearly five-year-long process has been challenging as most of the houses on the market are not affordable for a single-income individual, she said.

But her luck changed after a conversation with Anna Hamilton of Hamilton Habitat, a local non-profit working to provide affordable housing in Grand Marais to individuals – particularly those with a single income.

Now, eight months later, she is moments away from moving into her new home, thanks to the dedicated work of Hamilton Habitat.

Hamilton Habitat’s latest project is the West Second Street Project, the location of Silence’s new home and the new home for a county employee, another single-income individual in Grand Marais. The property west of the Homestead Cooperative contains two prefab manufactured homes each with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

After completing the West Second Street Project, Hamilton Habitat will have built nine homes since 2020. Hamilton said she remains committed to the mission of Hamilton Habitat and the good work because “We want people in a home. We want working stiffs. We want them here in a home in a community where it’s almost unaffordable for the average person.”

“We’re just trying to fill a need,” Hamilton said. “It’s just about really the little guy. The blue-collar guy is probably the one that needs it the most. And the ones that we’re having a really hard time doing anything for because of the cost.”

By focusing on providing affordable housing for the blue-collar and single-income individuals in Cook County, Hamilton Habitat has developed an effective approach to meeting the housing needs in Grand Marais. But she couldn’t do it alone. “It does take a village,” she said.

Numerous small businesses in Grand Marais, including the Cook County Home Center and the Grand Marais State Bank, have stepped up to assist Hamilton Habitat. Fellow non-profits such as Oddz & Endz and First and Second Thrift Store have annually donated money.

“We couldn’t do this without this community from day one,” Hamilton said. “I’m so grateful.”

While Hamilton Habitat has received much community support, the biggest challenge remains acquiring affordable land in Grand Marais. Fortunately, there is an entity willing to help in that regard.

“We’re really fortunate to have an organization like Hamilton Habitat in this community, ” said Jason Hale, the Housing Redevelopment Authority executive director. “That’s a lot of courage.”

Hale recently began conversations with Hamilton Habitat to explore potential collaboration efforts where the HRA will acquire land in Grand Marais for $1 and provide the parcel to Hamilton Habitat to build homes. “I would love for property not to be the problem for Hamilton,” Hale said. “I’d love to have a pipeline of six sites for them.”

As Silence prepares to move into her new home, she said it gives her a “sense of security” knowing that she has a long-term place to live and can remain close to her family. She said her experience throughout the past eight months working with Hamilton Habitat has been incredibly rewarding.

“She wants to make this happen for people,” Silence said. “Going above and beyond for this community, and it’s so amazing.”

Despite the challenges Hamilton has experienced in this project and projects prior, she remains focused on providing housing for the working individuals in Grand Marais.

She said, “We’re doing it. We’re doing it.”

Listen to the full feature with Anna Hamilton, Kristi Silence, and Executive Director of the Housing Redevelopment Authority Jason Hale on Soundcloud, or watch the shorter video below.