Springfield leaders mull $1.7 million Villager Inn hotel purchase to house homeless

Springfield city commissioners are expected to vote on a planned $1.7 million purchase of a local hotel to use as a homeless shelter as city leaders work to shelter displaced families in the city.

The city commission on Tuesday will read for the second time an ordinance about the purchase of The Villager Inn, located at 1715 W. North St., and a vacant lot adjacent to the property.

City manager Bryan Heck explained the purchase cost — covered fully by American Rescue Plan Act dollars — will include the building, land, adjacent lot and all the furniture and fixtures inside the hotel space.

“As we work to address the homelessness and displaced individual crisis that our own community is seeing, we’re able to maximize the usage of our dollars to make a transaction like this happen,” Heck said.

The pandemic saw the homelessness increase nationally as businesses shuttered and people lost their employment. Congregate shelter spaces were also shut down in order to stop the transmission of COVID-19 to vulnerable people.

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Hotels and motels were heavily impacted by the pandemic, too, as people isolated themselves and stopped traveling. The availability of urban hotel and motel rooms became a temporary solution for the city to shelter displaced people. The use of hotels and motels as shelter spaces was covered by federal government funding, but that funding and program ended this year.

A city-county homelessness task force — which consists of Clark County and Springfield city agencies and organizations geared toward housing, employment, mental health and more — was started months back to gather more information about how many people locally lack stable housing and what long-term solutions can be worked toward addressing the boom in homelessness.

Heck said the exacerbation of homelessness in the city was one of the consequences of the pandemic as people lost their jobs and were impacted by closures. The Villager Inn will serve as a more permanent support option for displaced individuals and families alike.

The city has seen more families single and dual-parents with children — displaced. An “apartment-style” of shelter space will allow families privacy as they work with Sheltered, Inc. and other area organizations that serve people experiencing homelessness with case management, Heck said.

“The Villager Inn, hotels in general, provide us a better option because it allows us to remove that congregate nature of sheltering so they can have their own individual space again as we help them thrive in our community, for their future,” Heck said.

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Current owners of the Villager Inn — Springfield Inns Inc. — in October completed their land contract obligations for $500,000 to the company Fremont Properties, Inc., according to Clark County Auditor’s Office records.

This was a necessary step for the owners to work with the city toward a land sale, Heck said.

Springfield Inns Inc. has operated the Villager Inn since 2006, according to Ohio Secretary of State records.

The city will work with the nonprofit partners who have been active with the task force to bring the new housing option on line if the ordinance passes.

After the closing of the transaction, the city will work with its housing partners to transfer ownership to the organizations, who will also be managing the shelter spaces, Heck said.

The city is also eyeing the Executive Inn, located at 325 W. Columbia St., for use as a shelter space, but is further in the process of consideration with the Villager Inn, Heck said.

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