The former Fifth Avenue Motel is probably Knoxville’s most notorious flophouse. Volunteer Ministry Center now owns that property, and is moving towards rehabilitating the historic structure into Minvilla Manor, an apartment building with 57 units of permanent supportive housing for people who are chronically homeless.
Minvilla Manor is not without controversy. It’s expensive, largely because it’s an historic renovation. It’s perceived by some to be an impending expansion of homeless services in an area already suffering from oversupply. Some fear that residents of Minvilla will be threatened by their surroundings. Others believe that they’ll wander the adjacent streets and neighborhoods.
Yesterday’s Rockford Register Star ran this piece about a project that has a lot in common with Minvilla.
Known for years as a flophouse swarming with drug dealers, addicts and prostitutes, the former Grand Hotel is but a memory to those who are there today.
The Grand, located at Broadway and Eighth in Rockford, is home to people who have struggled with homelessness.
Zion Development, a faith-based, nonprofit neighborhood development organization, bought the property in 1997 and opened it as permanent supportive housing in December 2001.
Zion’s website says that the Grand was “the most dangerous building in a nine county area.” Now in its seventh year of operation, it’s not the same place at all.
Boyd Glovier of the Take It Back neighborhood watch group said the Grand Apartments of today are “like night and day” compared with the old Grand Hotel, which was privately owned. “There was an awful lot of drug dealing and prostitution. It was like they weren’t even trying to hide it,” Glovier said. “That all stopped when Zion Development moved in. I don’t see the lowlifes hanging out like I used to. Now, you see people walking down the street. It’s not 100 percent, but we’re working on it.”
It seems that Zion Development has focused its security protocol more on keeping bad influences out than on policing the behavior of residents. “While the neighborhood outside the Grand offers a lot in terms of shopping, dining and social services — all within walking distance — it’s still a troubled area.”
About 10% of the Grand’s residents move out each year into an independent living situation. For others, the Grand is a good situation and they stay on. They all sign leases and pay rent, most of them using subsidies of one kind or another, or in combination.
It’s been a successful seven years for this permanent supportive housing project in Rockford, Illinois, a city roughly the same size as Knoxville. This is exactly the kind of story we believe we’ll be telling about Minvilla Manor eight years from now.