City is discussing locations for homeless resource center
The city is talking to a church about buying its building and converting it to a resource center for homeless people.
City Manager Bill Burrough declined to disclose the name of the church when asked last week by the Hot Springs Board of Directors.
“I’d rather not until we get further into the negotiations,” he said.
One of two proposals the city received from its solicitation for a resource center operator last year recommended the city acquire Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and an adjacent building on Hobson Avenue.
The proposal from Ouachita Children Youth and Family Services said the building was for sale and could be converted to a resource center at a lower cost than constructing a new building.
“We would need to budget some improvements and changes within the building, but it’s one where we could immediately start a community resource center,” Burrough, referring to the building he declined to name, told the board. “Then if we wanted to grow into an overnight stay shelter, that could happen in the next couple of years.
“From a resource standpoint, it’s ready-made for that. It has an industrial kitchen. It has open spaces for a warming or cooling shelter. It’s been well maintained and well taken care of.”
The city has estimated up to a $4.5 million cost to build a resource center. Putting it in the building Burrough alluded to last week could be done for an initial cost of $750,000, he said. The committee Burrough formed last year to prioritize more than $40 million in unfunded capital needs ranked a $4.5 million resource center eighth out of 18 projects.
He said the roughly $1.4 million balance from the city’s restricted American Rescue Plan Act allocation could be used for the resource center project. Earlier this year, the board authorized the transfer of $6.74 million in unrestricted ARPA funds to the general fund to reimburse salaries and benefits.
The transfer satisfied U.S. Treasury Department spend down deadlines that require ARPA funds be committed by next year and spent by 2026. The city’s restricted funds are still subject to the deadlines.
Burrough said the location of the building he discussed last week is one of the features that recommends it for a resource center.
“It’s in a location I think is well suited for the population we’re trying to serve,” he told the board. “They’re already there. We’ve had discussions with Jackson House. It’s an area they could continue to serve their lunch ministry, but it would be an indoor setting versus now where they’re sitting on the wall or across the street or down on the creek.”
Ouachita Children Youth and Family Services’ proposal noted the area near Prince of Peace would be amenable to a facility that serves homeless people.
“With all homeless programs operating in the same area where the neighborhood is already comfortable with OCYFS, there should not be any negative feedback from the surrounding neighborhood,” the nonprofit said.
OCYFS provides shelter, food, counseling and psychological evaluations, drug awareness programs and youth aftercare services, according to the informational form it filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Jackson House also submitted a proposal. According to its IRS filing, it’s an emergency assistance provider. It’s the city’s partner in Hope Works Jobs Experience, the anti-poverty initiative started in 2020. The public-private partnership pays homeless and indigent people to remove litter from state-maintained roads.
The city said it’s also considering the old East Side School building on Oklahoma Street as a possible resource center location. According to property records, the Hot Springs School District deeded it to the local Housing Authority in 2017.
“If we’re ever going to have an impact on the socially underserved we have it’s going to take a facility and everybody working together to do that,” Burrough told the board. “It’s something we could make happen. It’s a big number, but not as big as we were thinking.”