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Councilman: City could acquire Anniston nursing home for use as homeless shelter

The Anniston Star - 1/22/2020

Jan. 21--Noland Health Services is ready to give a health and rehab center on Leighton Avenue to the city of Anniston for use as a homeless shelter -- if the city will take it, Councilman Jay Jenkins said Tuesday.

Jenkins said local nonprofits intend to rent the facility -- formerly known as Beckwood Manor -- as a place to house homeless people and get them back on their feet.

"We're not just providing shelter," Jenkins said. "This is going to be something that changes people's lives."

City officials and local nonprofits have been in talks about a potential new shelter since the Salvation Army closed its men's shelter nearly a year ago. Rumors about the city potentially acquiring the former Beckwood Manor persisted for weeks.

Now the matter is on the city's agenda: Council members are set to discuss a land deal with Noland Health at tonight's City Council work session. Jenkins confirmed Tuesday morning that Noland has agreed to give the building to the city at no cost, after it moves its clients to a new facility near Regional Medical Center. Jenkins said the offer includes beds and other furnishings inside the building.

"Noland has been incredibly gracious," Jenkins said.

Attempts to reach Noland's attorney, Barbara Estep, were unsuccessful Tuesday. Jenkins named Estep as a point of contact for the agreement, and staff at Noland forwarded inquiries to her number.

The Leighton Avenue facility had 85 nursing home beds in 2016 when Noland acquired it from Beckwood, according to a document from the State Health Planning and Development Agency. It's unclear how many homeless-shelter beds the facility would have under the city plan, though Jenkins said the facility would be more than just a place for people to stay.

"They're going to get physical and mental health evaluations," he said. "They'll get help building a resume and help finding a job."

Jenkins said the city hopes to lease the building to a coalition of nonprofits -- United Way, Interfaith Ministries and the Right Place -- that recently got a $300,000 state grant to operate just such a shelter. Under that grant proposal, the nonprofits would operate a shelter for 45 people.

United Way director Shannon Jenkins said Tuesday that the initial plan would likely be to house 25 to 35 people. He noted that the city's warming station at Carver Community Center, open this week due to sub-freezing temperatures, sheltered 29 people Monday night.

"The building is perfect for us, and it's at a perfect location," Shannon Jenkins said. He said the building is near downtown and will require almost no renovation.

The City Council earlier this year considered renovations to the Glen Addie Community Center that could turn the center into a warming station and one-stop services shop for the homeless. Officials from the nonprofit coalition later said the community center would likely not be big enough for their 45-bed plan.

Any plan to acquire the Leighton Avenue building would likely require action by the City Council, which has yet to take up the matter in any public meeting.

The council's work session begins at 4 p.m. at the Anniston City Meeting Center.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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