COLUMBIA — A controversial plan to build transitional housing for homeless youth near Hickman High School will get nearly $56,000 in city money.
The Columbia City Council voted 7-0 Monday night to give the money to Central Missouri Community Action, which hopes to build five two-bedroom apartments at 1004 N. Seventh St. for homeless youths. The housing would provide up to 18 months of housing for as many as 10 homeless people ages 16 to 21.
Community Action asked the city for $76,545 through its HOME Action program, which distributes money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Community Development Commission recommended the council approve $55,766. The council agreed with the commission's recommendation.
Dan Cullimore, the construction manager for Job Point, spoke in favor of the funding. Job Point, which will act as a partner for the project, is an organization that serves youth who are at a disadvantage economically or educationally. It teaches youth from ages 16 to 24 skills in construction and offers classes to help them get their GED.
Cullimore called the housing "a cheap option," explaining that it costs more to send teenagers to jail than to educate them.
"It's more expensive to fix problems after they occur, than to prevent their occurrence," Cullimore said.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said it is a "wonderful opportunity."
"Prevention is the key to our youth crime problems," Nauser said.
Rainbow House, which runs another transitional youth house in town, will also be a partner in this project.
The project's total cost, including money spent to buy the lot, will be about $595,000.
- Approved Funds: $154,812 from The Missouri Housing Trust Fund, and the $55,766 awarded this evening by the council.
- Pending Funds: $165,581 from the Missouri Housing Development Commission and $42,575 from the City Rental Production Funding program. To win the money from the city fund, the agency must show it can operate the housing with income generated by the project.
The council vote came after about 20 minutes of testimony, primarily from supporters.
Jeff Adams of 914 N. Seventh St., which is across the street from the location in question, voiced his disapproval. He said the location of the housing should not be made public, and he is concerned the apartments would take away from neighborhood aesthetics.
"The council's been approached with the value to the project with no consideration to whether it's in the right place," Adams said. "That just isn't the right place to put this."
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe called the housing "a start."
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and Mayor Darwin Hindman also spoke in support of the housing.
"It's clearly a need that we need to meet," Hindman said. "This is a great step, I think."
Cullimore said one of his students at Job Point had to drop out of their program recently due to lack of housing, and he is glad this housing project will go forward.
"It feels really good," Cullimore said. "It's almost time to celebrate something."
The funding was approved as part of a revision of the fiscal 2009 home action plan.
The council vote also authorized:
- $20,000 for Job Point, which plans to build three homes then sell them to homeowners with a 20 percent subsidy.
- $18,500 toward construction costs for Habitat for Humanity.
- $20,000 to help Community Housing Options design apartments for people with disabilities.