Middletown homeless shelter planning to move out of downtown

The Hope House, a homesless shelter on Main Street in Middletown, could move to this building at 1001 Grove St. The building was originally part of AK Steel’s former headquarters campus before Abilities First acquired it for use to work with the developmentally disabled. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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The Hope House, a homesless shelter on Main Street in Middletown, could move to this building at 1001 Grove St. The building was originally part of AK Steel’s former headquarters campus before Abilities First acquired it for use to work with the developmentally disabled. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

An emerging partnership among city officials, a urban development company and two area non-profits may result in relocating a mens shelter from downtown Middletown to a new $5.1 million facility.

City Council has approved an emergency ordinance for a memorandum of understanding with The Model Group that has done redevelopment through public/private partnerships in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood and has worked with City Gospel Mission that provides short term housing needs and services.

MORE: Middletown's Hope House considers move out of downtown

In 2013, The Model Group’s executive team toured downtown Middletown as part of an effort to cultivate strategies to redevelop the area around Main Street and Central Avenue, said City Manager Doug Adkins.

At that time, he said stakeholders were willing to support The Model Group if there was a viable plan to redevelop adjacent South Main Street properties and providing alternate locations for the existing tenants now in the former US Hotel building at 34 S. Main St.

“One of the areas we talked about at that time is now coming to fruition is the Hope House on Main Street,” Adkins said. “The Model Group, in partnership with City Gospel Mission and Hope House, now has an opportunity to provide development funding for the construction of a facility to move Hope House off of Main Street and over to the old Abilities First building at 1001 Grove St.”

That building was originally part of AK Steel’s former headquarters campus before Abilities First acquired it for use to work with the developmentally disabled.

The scope of the project is for the mens housing and services to move to the Grove Street location. Hope House also operates a shelter for women and children at 1300 Girard St.

Representatives from Hope House Mission and The Model Group could not be reached for comment about the project.

Founded in 1989, Hope House Mission is a 501(C)(3) faith-based ministry, serving homeless men, women and children in Butler, Warren, and surrounding counties in southwest Ohio, according to its website.

MORE: Homeless rates down across Ohio, up in Butler County

“We’ve talked a number of times about moving Hope House out of downtown,” Adkins said. “This is consistent with our downtown master plan, its consistent with other things we are doing and seems to be a great project to allow lots of things to happen.”

He said the project would be done using Low Income Housing Tax Credits through the Ohio Housing Finance Authority.

The agreement will enable The Model Group to meet the March 16 pre-application deadline. The pre-application has several introductory requirements that includes commitments of at least 50 percent of the operating budget.

According to a city staff report, the agreement has specific benchmarks in order for city support to materialize.

Adkins said as part of the Low Income Housing Tax Credits application and program, 30 permanent supportive Section 8 housing vouchers will need to be assigned through either Butler County Metropolitan Housing Authority or Balance of State Continuum of Care.

He said both programs have indicated that providing an operating subsidy via vouchers for this development was a priority for them.

If the project receives the commitment/vouchers from either source, the 11 vouchers currently being utilized by Hope House will be withdrawn from use and returned to BMHA at the appropriate time, Adkins said. If the project does not go forward, Hope House would keep their 11 vouchers.

According to the city staff report, if the Low Income Housing Tax Credits application is accepted, OHFA will require the project request a property tax abatement at a minimum of 50 percent for seven years and other one-time development provisions such as waived fees as a measure of local support for the project.

Matt Eisenbraun, assistant economic development director, said the original plan was to renovate the former Abilities First building, but found the costs to remediate and renovate would be higher than building a new facility. Hope House Mission also operates a shelter for women and children at 1300 Girard St.

Eisenbraun said with all of the stakeholders working to find proactive solutions, there is the potential to continue with additional projects in the future.

He said Abilities First has expressed interest in relocating the only remaining program that operates in the Grove Street facilities. If they are able to find a building better suited to provide those services, Abilities First would be able to part with additional property which in turn could potentially be used for a separate female facility and allow for the closure of the Girard Street location.

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