by Max Brantley
Today comes an invitation to the world at large to tour the site Mayor Mark Stodola has identified as a potential resource center for the homeless, deep in the industrial East End on Ninth Street. The time is set for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.
He told me in an e-mail this morning that the decision wasn't final, but you'll see from his note on the jump that he sounds high on it. He noted to me in a note today that it is not in a residential neighborhood, is close to the "downtown core" and is on a bus line. Cost and operational issues have not yet been explained. It's been used recently as a probation office, but it is the privately owned former Little Rock Road Machinery property and is listed for $789,000, slightly more than its appraised value on tax rolls. A spokesman said the cities can't afford that price.
The mayor objected to my recitation of slapdash notice on this yesterday. It's true that he didn't inform the ward's director, Erma Hendrix, until after many others, including me, knew about it, but he said he'd tried to call her earlier without success. He also said he didn't know a city employee who was to distribute the notice was on vacation. The news filtered out through various sources.
He said he was not intentionally trying to provoke Hendrix, as she had suggested to me, but said, "It is a proven fact elsewhere around the country that a center such as this has to have some close proximity to where the homeless congregate." Hendrix no doubt was aware of this in suggesting a vacant grocery store in Riverdale, near a homeless camp beneath a railroad overpass (and, it happens, in the shadow of the hills of Hillcrest and the Heights). If Stodola really wants to get close to the core homeless population, he could find some vacant space in the River Market neighborhood, but I don't suppose the Chamber of Commerce would get behind that suggestion.
I've never had one of downtown's street people ask for money for bus fare. That may change.
What: Tour of Potential Site for Homeless Resource Center
When: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 — 11:30 a.m.
Where: 1421 E. 9th Street, Little Rock, AR 72202
I would like to invite various interested parties and the media to tour a potential location for the Homeless Resource Center. I would like feedback from the Mayors Homeless Commission, the Homeless Coalition and the public. With winter closing in upon us, I would like to move forward with establishing a permanent location as soon as possible. I have toured the building in the past and believe it will accommodate a variety of needs including a safe and secure location for feeding the homeless; offices for case assessment and referral; job re-training and referrals; certain medical needs; laundry facilities and clothing areas; as well as likely emergency shelter needs including a warming center for this winter.
The location is at 1421 E. 9th St. Little Rock, the former Arkansas Department of Correction Probation offices. The site, which is 4 acres, is fully fenced with ample parking and substantial green space at the rear of the property.