Efforts to turn an unsuccessful condo complex into a housing and service center for Lexington’s homeless residents continue. The Lorillard Lofts just off West Main Street sits less than half full. Several years ago, the one time tobacco warehouse was converted into condos. Both developers and the city hoped to attract young professionals downtown. Instead, the complex could soon serve Lexington’s street people.
During a tour Thursday, Ginny Ramsey of the Catholic Action Center, took members of the public through one of the housing units.
“We all know what happened with the economy and the location kind of killed them. So, the location is perfect for our folks, but not as much for the high end condos,” said Ramsey.
Now, homeless advocates look to turn the large structure into what’s they term a ‘compassion mall.’ The proposal converts the upstairs into 20 respite units…which would provide temporary shelter for homeless resident. The first floor would offer a variety of services such as a public benefits office, self sufficiency counseling, and medical care.
Kelly Gunning with Lexington’s National Alliance on Mental Illness sees the center as a nice supplement to the new Eastern State psychiatric hospital.
“What we’re seeing is a lot more people remaining in the community longer untreated with inability to get to treatment. This facility is gonna be a gap filler, a bridge to services,” explained Gunning.
David Christiansen with the Central Kentucky Housing and Homeless Initiative feels confident the project will become a reality.
“I mean I just think it’s gonna happen. There’s so much support from so many different sectors that, it may not happen quite as soon as we would all like to see it happen, but I think a year from now, we’re gonna be up and running, I really do,” added Christiansen.
Ramsey estimates the upfront cost to convert the private condo complex to a homeless service center at about six million dollars. Lexington leaders will be asked to help launch the project. Similar projects in the past have run afoul of neighbors, who worry homeless shelters promote crime and reduce property values.