Local officials and residents gathered last week to break ground for 66 West, a housing and skills training center for young people emerging from homelessness.

The project, at 3330 W. 66th St., across from Southdale, will cost about $11.2 million and provide 39 apartments along with support services for residents.

Young people under the age of 25 make up about 16 percent of the homeless population in Minnesota, according to a survey by the Wilder Foundation.

Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative of St. Paul and Edina Community Lutheran Church led the project, which also drew support from more than 40 other churches, businesses, foundations and government agencies.

“We want our youth to do more than survive — we want them to thrive,” said Lee Blons, Beacon’s executive director.

Blons commented wryly on the challenges of getting the project off the ground.

“Arranging financing is like herding cats, where each cat has its own attorney,” she said.

John Reinan

Hennepin County

Freeman elected to national DA group board

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman was voted president-elect of the National District Attorneys Association last week at the group’s annual convention in Boston, making him the odds-on favorite to become president when he hosts its convention next year in Minneapolis.

Freeman said he wants the association to be a strong voice for the country’s local prosecutors, especially in Washington, and to support national discussions on public safety and criminal justice issues.

Freeman was elected to his fifth term in 2014 as Hennepin County attorney, where he leads the state’s largest prosecuting office. He first served as county attorney from 1991 to 1999 and has remained in the office since he was re-elected in 2007.

He served in the Minnesota Senate from 1983 to 1991 and made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1998.

Kevin Duchschere

Excelsior

Historical society to host steamboat cruise

The Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society will host a history event Aug. 8 on the steamboat Minnehaha.

The event, which starts at 7 p.m., will include discussion of the boat’s past with historian F. Todd Warner.

Classic boat owners are invited to cruise alongside the historic steamboat from Bayside Grille in Excelsior.

To ride along with the Minnehaha, tickets are $20 for historical society members and $35 for nonmembers, and available at elmhs.eventbrite.com.

To join the cruise, contact info@elmhs.org.

The event is one of the Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society’s monthly “Tapping History” events on the history of Lake Minnetonka.

Kelly Smith

Scott County

Drug court receives state’s final approval

Scott County’s first drug court, set for an October launch, has received its final approval from the state’s judicial policymaking branch.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Judicial Council approved the county’s plan for a pilot drug court, which has been in the works all year.

The court is an effort to save money, treat addiction and reduce the county’s rising number of drug- and alcohol-related arrests.

Convictions related to substance abuse increased by 84 percent between 2011 and 2015.

“It has taken a tremendous amount of partnership and work in our community to bring this program together,” Judge Christian Wilton, one of two judges to preside over the court, said in a release.

“This approval from the Minnesota Judicial Council is a critical step toward launching this important effort later this fall.”

The County Board voted last month to allocate $900,000 over the next three years for the pilot program.

Starting enrollment is capped at 25 people but will increase, according to organizers.

Natalie Daher

Shakopee

Construction forces early start to school year

Shakopee schools will begin classes Aug. 22, more than two weeks ahead of most other districts, and end on May 25, 2017.

The change was made so that construction of the Shakopee High School addition can begin in late May 2017.

Most Minnesota school districts will begin classes on Sept. 6, the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Erin Adler