A local nonprofit plans a $150,000 renovation to a long-vacant building for a recovery center and emergency housing complex for the homeless, filling what community leaders have called a major need for post-recovery services.
Gemini Reliance Inc., which operates the Maynard House at 2137 Larch St., will establish a 21-bed transitional housing unit at a former bingo hall at 2001 Lagonda Ave.
The facility will be for homeless men, including recovering addicts and those coming out of incarceration. The new residential facility is expected to open in the early fall, but the recovery and education center could open sooner.
More than 100 people packed the City Hall Forum on Wednesday evening to discuss the planned housing unit. After an hour-long discussion, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals approved a conditional use permit for it.
Gemini Reliance is co-owned by twin brothers Charles and Michael Rollins, both recovering addicts who opened the five-bed Maynard House in November.
“We won’t turn anyone away,” co-owner Charles Rollins said. “We’ll help anyone we can.”
Residents at the center will work through programs with other agencies such as McKinley Hall, Opportunities for New Directions and Opportunities for Individual Change.
“We’re trying to link them with the resources that best fit their needs,” Charles Rollins said.
Recovery isn’t just for people battling alcohol and drug issues, but also those with problems regarding mental health and homelessness, Michael Rollins said. Gemini also recently participated in the local Continuum of Care, which promotes the community-wide coordination of stable housing.
“We want to try to guide them in the right direction to build the neighborhood,” he said. “Recovery is a wonderful thing and I hope we can embrace that.”
The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Madison and Greene Counties will operate the recovery center inside the facility, offering services for individuals seeking support for long-term addiction, including education, said Roselin Runnels, director of communications and programs. Initially, that center will be open limited hours due to funding, she said, but will expand as more funding becomes available. The Clark County Recovery Supports Group also will lease space from Gemini, Runnels said.
Next month, the recovery board is expected to allocate about $61,000 to McKinley Hall to establish a community recovery center, including about $16,000 that will be awarded to Gemini for the Lagonda site. The board expects to allocate $28,000 per year for the recovery center at Gemini, according to public documents.
The recovery board offers 12 beds for residential substance abuse treatment at McKinley Hall and 14 beds for transitional housing at the Matt Talbot House, 809 S. Limestone St.
In 2014, the Springfield/Clark County Housing Collaborative reported 64 overall transitional housing units in the community.
While people are in structured treatment, Runnels said, studies show they do well. However when they leave the treatment facility and the support falls away, relapse rates rise, she said.
“It’s a big gap and we need to do something about it,” Runnels said.
BZA Member Connie Rhoads was concerned about security at the facility, which will have a house manager on site 24 hours per day and security cameras.
Chad Poole, who owns C&A Service Center at nearby 2109 Lowell St., was concerned about the way the neighborhood was notified. He received a card about the emergency housing project, but said no other information was provided about other services would be offered at the facility. He was unaware exactly what was being planned until he arrived at the meeting, he said.
“The community has a right to know what’s going on in the area,” Poole said.
The city of Springfield notified all property owners within 200 feet of the property, as part of its zoning requirements, said Planning and Zoning Administrator Bryan Heck. The city also took several calls from concerned residents from the neighborhood about the extent of the project, he said. Plans haven’t been submitted to the Building Department and the site must be brought up to code to receive an occupancy permit.
More than a dozen recovering addicts spoke out in support of the facility on Monday evening. Without places like McKinley Hall and the Maynard House, many of them said they would still be struggling.
Clark County needs more crisis and housing services, said Springfield resident Stephen Massey, who works at both CitiLookout Counseling Agency and McKinley Hall.
“I’ve been clean for 12 years and to see something like this come into existence is monumental,” Massey said.
Several nearby property owners also spoke about the condition of the building, which they believe will be difficult to repair.
“It’s been a terrible eyesore,” said Dave Thullen, who owns 1084 N. Belmont Ave.
Gemini Reliance wants to renovate the building, rather than build new, Charles Rollins said.
“It’s about taking an old building and making it new, just like the people involved,” he said.
The Springfield News-Sun has been following the substance abuse crisis in Clark County, including recent stories on babies born addicted to drugs and a spike in drug-related deaths.