Homeless no more
Hundreds gathered for the grand opening of Steve O'Neil Apartments Feb. 3. Just as many people stood on the other side of the ribbon, spilling out onto the street. They shouted out a countdown, "Ten, nine, eight ..." as they recorded the moment with cellphones and cameras.
The new building a welcomes families and children to the 44-unit, $12.8 million permanent supportive housing community and emergency family shelter. UnitedHealth Group was the largest investor in the project, providing $10.5 million.
The apartment holds the name of the longtime St. Louis County commissioner, who died in 2013 at the age of 63 after battling cancer.
"He's here," said Eckes, a Benedictine nun. "Steve is here blessing this whole beautiful dream."
The succession of dignitaries spoke about overcoming problems such as dry-cleaning fluid that polluted the ground and rehabilitating a derelict block that once featured a drug den masked as a candy store.
By the time O'Neil's widow, Angie Miller, spoke, few eyes in the house were dry.
"Dreams really do come true," Miller said.
Miller called it a place for families that have experienced "lifetimes of hardship, crisis, disaster and injustice." There are 23 units filled; the others are set to be occupied by the end of the month.