Abandoned Capers Ave. nursing home to be transformed into transitional living facility for homeless

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 2:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Putalamus White always saw herself as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, traveling the world and making things happen.

Instead, the CEO of the Jackson Resource Center said God had other plans for her, plans that include serving the homeless in the capital city.

“The Lord has been all my life telling me to help individuals,” she said. “He wanted me to be here in Jackson.”

Now, a little more than a year after opening the resource center’s main campus on Langley Avenue, White is embarking on a much larger project also designed to help the homeless, building a $50 million transitional housing center along Capers Avenue.

Plans for a transitional living campus for Capers Avenue.
Plans for a transitional living campus for Capers Avenue.(Jackson Resource Center)

The Jackson City Council recently transferred the roughly 18-site to the Jackson Resource Center at its last May 23 council meeting.

The property, a former independent living center owned by the state, is located at 300 Capers and has been abandoned for several years.

The city’s Surplus Property Committee voted to recommend the property be deeded over to the Jackson Resource Center in December, saying the decision could ultimately benefit the community.

White says she’s been working to get the property since around 2018, around the time the state pulled out.

“It was in great shape then. The grass was cut, the buildings were operable,” she said. “But now, it’s not so good.”

[READ: Clean up collaboration begins on Capers Avenue ahead of ‘new investments’ for Jackson]

Today, the site has devolved from a well-manicured state campus into an illegal dumping site, overgrown with trees and shrubbery, and dotted with piles of litter.

The buildings, partially obscured by vegetation, are characterized by broken windows, busted doors, and falling sheetrock.

In some spots, doors have been taken off their hinges, revealing corridors with hanging wires, missing ceiling tiles, and floors covered in dirt and mud.

White says the next step is to clear away the shrubs and pull down those buildings. Replacing them will be separate men’s and women’s shelters, a transformation center, dog kennel, donation center, gym and post office, food service area, a detox and medical facility, and daycare center.

Acreage also would be set aside for transitional housing units, which would provide homeless individuals with low-rent housing that would allow them to rebuild their lives.

She’s unsure when construction would begin but hopes to begin clearing the site as soon as possible. “Phase one is clean up and clearing, then demolition and securing the property,” she said.

White says plans are based, in part, on a similar campus in San Antonio called “Haven for Hope.”

“They’ve got a 22-acre campus right on the border of downtown,” White explained. “And this campus is literally a one-stop-shop for anyone who is homeless or threatening homelessness.”

She says since Haven for Hope has been open, downtown San Antonio has seen a reduction in homelessness by 80 percent.

“When I went out and actually visited the campus, it was like walking on a college campus,” she said. “They have over 100 different agencies located on that campus, so an individual that comes to the campus looking for help can get help because you’ve got representation from every area of service right there.”

In 2022, San Antonio has about 2,995 people living in homelessness, according to a point-in-time count conducted on the night of March 1.

By comparison, HUD data showed Jackson had 654 people living in homelessness during its count that February.

Jackson homeless population by yearTotalUnshelteredSheltered
2021N/A due to COVIDN/A due to COVID147
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The project is expected to cost between $50 million and $55 million.

“We’re looking for grants, for philanthropists that have the desire to see individuals and families live different lives,” she said. “Loans will be our last out because we want to be able to serve individuals to the best of our abilities without a large overhead.”

Jackson Resource Center currently has two locations in the capital city, its main campus on Langley, which opened a year ago last May, and a maternity group home for homeless women ages 16 to 22.

Seven people can be served at the group home, while the Langley address has 33 housing units. White says residents there pay about $274 a month for rent, which covers all utilities, lunch and dinner, and hair styling.

“That helps an individual to be able to save, and now have money to put away and have an emergency fund going into an apartment or home,” she said. “And then, we have social services that are located on this campus as well. So, it keeps them progressing and going into a better place.”

White says tenants stay at the Resource Center, on average, about six months. However, she said some tenants likely will remain there for an extended period.

“Some of the individuals on this campus here are here, we say, for life,” she said. “They’re going to be lifelong residents. But some of them are here in transition.”

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