Fri
Apr 21 2006
03:04 pm

You may recall from a couple of weeks ago that Knoxville City Council delayed a vote on funding a housing program for the homeless at the former 5th Ave. Motel. The vote was delayed so that a public workshop could be held.

The workshop was held last night, and according the Knoxville News Sentinel (registration may be required) and WBIR, it was a four hour marathon.

More after the jump...

According to the reports, City Council voted to approve $460,000 in funding for the project, which the Volunteer Ministry Center will use to renovate the historic 5th Ave. Motel to provide 60 subsidized permanent housing apartments for the chronically homeless. The vote was 6-3 for the funding, with councilmen Rob Frost, Steve Hall and Joe Hultquist voting against. The funds are from a federal housing grant that was originally intended for condo development at the site, but those plans fell through.

According to the KNS, residents from nearby neighborhoods raised concerns about further concentration of homeless people in the area. Residents also questioned how this program fits in with the city and county's original plan to build 200 housing units equally distributed around the city to avoid overconcentrations in a single area.

There were also questions about why Mayor Haslam is in such a hurry to fund this program when he and County Mayor Ragsdale haven't hired a director for the proposed 10 year city-county plan to fight homelessness. Councilman Rob Frost was quoted by the KNS as saying "We don't have a captain for the ship and we're trying to set course."

WBIR reports that another concern expressed, again, was that neither the Volunteer Ministry Center nor the City of Knoxville has a plan in place for funding the program other than initial federal grant. WBIR quotes Rob Frost as saying "We have money chasing a problem. We're buying a building when there's no funding for social services to help these people. If we're in the business of helping people, we need the services before we need the building."

The total cost of the renovation is expected to be approx. $3.8 million. The city's initial funding only represents about 12% of that. According to Councilman Rob Frost in a follow-up e-mail, the Volunteer Mission Center will fund the rest through fundraising drives and grants.

Going forward, however, there are no specific plans for funding the housing program once it's in place. Councilman Frost said that he specifically asked if funding for support services was in place, and the answer was no. Councilman Frost notes that one-time fundraising campaigns for "brick and mortar" are much easier than fundraising for ongoing salaries and operating costs.

He said he also suggested making some units available for UT social work students or people in the seminary to provide an around-the-clock presence, but his suggestion "wasn't well received."

The Volunteer Ministry Center said they don't anticipate any additional requests for Community Development Block Grants or any other city or county funding for the program, according to Councilman Frost.

As for the renovation project itself, he does not believe the city or the Public Building Authority will be involved. It is his understanding that the Volunteer Ministry Center has hired someone (formerly with developer Lawler-Wood) to manage the project, and that they will obtain low income housing tax credits and federal historic tax credits which can be sold to investors.

Rachel's picture

This building has an H-1

This building has an H-1 overlay on it, so any plans to change the exterior will have to go through the Historic Zoning Commission. It will be interesting to see if VMC can actually get all the units they plan (60 looks like an awful lot to me) without screwing up the building so that they can't get HZC approval.

There's much that could be done to the building to IMPROVE its looks, BTW, that HZC would be happy with. If all the crap were torn off of it, it should look a lot like Kendrick Place.

Stacey Diamond's picture

buildings and money

I've noticed many of the same people who don't want the government to help in "condos for the rich" don't want the government to help in housing for the homeless either, aginners. I think having people in apts is better than having them on the street and don't see how this affects 4th and Gill moreso than other places, its not that close. Stacey

Bbeanster's picture

Not that close? Where are

Not that close?
Where are you from? Where do you live? What are you smoking?
Take a drive down Broadway, north from from downtown. Note the people camped out on the sidewalk in the blocks between Depot and 5th. Does it look like a scene from some Third World nation to you? It damn sure does to me. Note the dirty bookstore on the other side of the street from the 5th Avenue Motel -- the only new business to move into the area in recent years, it occupies what used to be a First Tennessee bank (I used to bank there until it got too scary to walk back out into the parking lot for fear of being mugged).
And, of course, on the southeast corner there's the lovely lockdown facility for felons transitioning out of federal custody.
Go another half block to Emory Place. Turn right. You're in 4th&Gill. It's THAT close.
BTW, I have a friend who has a small business on Tyson, just across from Emory place. She minds less that her flower pots and anything not nailed down gets stolen than the fact that she frequently has to clean human excrement out of her doorway before she can start her day. I'm wondering how long she will be able to stay there if the concentration of homeless continues to rise.
I live in Oakwood, a couple of miles north. In the past couple of years, I'm starting to get people coming to my door to panhandle. I've had knocks on my door at 2 a.m. Last Friday night, a woman attempted to snatch my purse while I was loading groceries into my car in the Kroger parking lot at the Broadway shopping center. I grabbed it before she could and she cursed me -- which made it two-fer evening, since I had been yelled at by the alcoholic double-amputee who demanded money from me on my way into Kroger.

Bbeanster's picture

Not that close? Where are

Not that close?
Where are you from? Where do you live? What are you smoking?
Take a drive down Broadway, north from from downtown. Note the people camped out on the sidewalk in the blocks between Depot and 5th. Does it look like a scene from some Third World nation to you? It damn sure does to me. Note the dirty bookstore on the other side of the street from the 5th Avenue Motel -- the only new business to move into the area in recent years, it occupies what used to be a First Tennessee bank (I used to bank there until it got too scary to walk back out into the parking lot for fear of being mugged).
And, of course, on the southeast corner there's the lovely lockdown facility for felons transitioning out of federal custody.
Go another half block to Emory Place. Turn right. You're in 4th&Gill. It's THAT close.
BTW, I have a friend who has a small business on Tyson, just across from Emory place. She minds less that her flower pots and anything not nailed down gets stolen than the fact that she frequently has to clean human excrement out of her doorway before she can start her day. I'm wondering how long she will be able to stay there if the concentration of homeless continues to rise.
I live in Oakwood, a couple of miles north. In the past couple of years, I'm starting to get people coming to my door to panhandle. I've had knocks on my door at 2 a.m. Last Friday night, a woman attempted to snatch my purse while I was loading groceries into my car in the Kroger parking lot at the Broadway shopping center. I grabbed it before she could and she cursed me -- which made it two-fer evening, since I had been yelled at by the alcoholic double-amputee who demanded money from me on my way into Kroger.

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