COLUMBIA — A youth transitional home slated to be built across the street from Hickman High School has the neighbors talking.
The design for the building, which would house up to 10 people between the ages of 16 and 21, was presented to Central Missouri Community Action, community members and neighbors in a meeting Monday night.
— The house would have five units: one ADA accessible on the first floor, and four on the second story.
— Each unit would contain two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen.
— Offices for the staff, at least one of whom would be present 24/7, are located where they can see anyone entering or exiting the building.
— Two pairs of front doors allow for more windows and the ability to buzz residents in.
— Metal roofing keeps the home more "green" than traditional asphalt shingles.
— The only entrance to the building would be the front door, though there is an alarm-triggered back door in case of fire or other emergencies.
— Each unit has its own door and key, and the upstairs units have individual staircases.
— The lower level would be recycled brick, while the second level would have horizontal siding.
— The house would cost around $500,000 to build.
Timeline for the project:
Fall 2008: Applications submitted for funding
Winter 2008-2009: Design plans converted to construction drawings
Spring/Summer 2009: If funding is secured, do another community needs assessment
Fall/Winter 2009: Begin building
Summer/Fall 2010: Open
Michael Goldschmidt, assistant professor in the MU architectural studies department, and a handful of his students donated their services to design the complex, which would be located at 1004 N. Seventh St. The students began planning the site last fall and worked through the spring semester to design a safe, environmentally-friendly home that would blend into the neighborhood.
Young adults accepted into the house would be allowed to live there for 12 to 18 months while they stabilize their lives. They would also receive counseling from staff and learn some of the tools and skills they need to be successful, said Darin Preis, executive director of Central Missouri Community Action. A member of the house's staff would be available to its residents at all times.
Although the current plan is for the house to target homeless youths between the ages of 16 and 21, that may get more specific once the house is built and the youths' needs are reassessed.
For example, if there is a demand for a safe space for homeless pregnant teenagers after the complex is built, the goal of the house could adapt to address that, Preis said. CMCA is continuing to talk with Hickman High School staff to identify and address the needs of teenagers, he said.
CMCA plans to apply for funding, mostly from federal and state sources, to start building and will begin to contract out the programs and services to be offered in the home.
Neighbors, in voicing their opinions of the project, began with a discussion of whether there should be a front porch and turned toward the plethora of social service facilities in the North Central and First Ward neighborhoods. Some thought the porch would fit in more with the houses in the neighborhood, but others thought it might promote loitering. In the end, CMCA and Goldschmidt were willing to incorporate community concerns in the site's plan. Despite opposition from some neighbors, it was clear that because the site is private property, the project will go forward at that location.
Neighbors recognized that the house's design fits in with the neighborhood, but maybe a little too much. One resident called it "ho-hum."
Lorenzo Lawson, executive director of Youth Empowerment Zone, works with youth in the neighborhood. He pointed out that many businesses, such as bars and pay-day loan companies, have moved into the neighborhood, causing more problems.
"Nobody's protesting them, but people are complaining about trying to help these kids that can't help themselves," Lawson said. "If it was your kid, wouldn't you want someone to help them?"
The home would not be the first of its kind in Columbia.
Sol House, run by Rainbow House, serves as a transitional home for otherwise homeless people between the ages of 16 and 21. Since it opened in November 2007, the need for its services has surpassed the resources available, said Heather Windham, Sol House director. Although 17 young adults have lived in the house so far, another 35 youths have contacted the house, the location of which is confidential.
"Some of those (youths) didn't meet the requirements of the house, like they were pregnant or parenting, some we referred back to child services, and some are on a waiting list," Windham said. Sol House doesn't have the resources to deal with pregnancies, young children and severe mental illnesses, she said.
Others found that Sol House didn't meet their requirements. "Some find out about the program, the rules and expectations, and they just aren't ready for that," Windham said.
Sol House residents face a strict curfew, are required to do community service and must pass a drug test if they have a history of substance abuse.
Sol House tenants have had a positive impact on the neighborhood, Windham said. They hosted a barbecue for the neighborhood watch program, participated in the neighborhood association and helped neighbors with lawn chores, Windham said.
"It can actually enhance the community. I can guarantee ours has," Windham said of the program at Monday night's meeting.
Windham was asked later in the meeting to speak to the North Central Neighborhood Association about the interaction between Sol House and its neighborhood so that residents could get a clearer picture of such a relationship.
If grant funding is secured, the home could open in summer or fall 2010.