Turning old building into homeless shelter - can it be done?

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 4:55 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - It’s a generous offer, but can it be done? On Wednesday, we told you about a Watertown property owner who said he’d be willing to donate the old Globe Mini Mall to the Watertown Urban Mission to help house homeless people in the area.

The site of the former Globe Mini Mall in Watertown is mostly empty. It has been gutted and paint is chipping from the sides. Could this be the future site of a homeless shelter? On Wednesday, Dick Alexander, the owner of the property said that’s his goal.

“I’d like to help the disadvantaged and the homeless,” he said.

Alexander said he wants to donate the 30,000 square-foot building to Urban Mission. Dawn Cole, Urban Mission’s executive director, says she was delighted by the offer, but it’s not that simple.

“Urban Mission is not in the position to start up and operate a homeless shelter,” she said.

Cole says she’s certainly open to the idea, but it will take a lot of planning and staffing to get a project like that going.

Jefferson County Board of Legislators Chairman Scott Gray says the former mini mall could be an option, but it’s just too early to make anything happen.

“I would only ask him at this point to hold that thought. Put that thought on pause and we’ll be back to it,” he said.

Gray says the county is in need of a homeless shelter, especially after the examples we’ve seen in the past few weeks, like the situation at 661 Factory Street.

Some of those tenants were forced to live in tents as their building was condemned. Gray says all of those people have found temporary housing.

Cole says they do want to work with county leaders to figure out a solution.

“We would, however, like to be part of a community dialogue, in which we bring together community leaders from all different sectors to really talk about how best to address housing and security and homelessness,” she said.

Gray adds that Jefferson County did receive $2.9 million from the American Rescue Plan. He says some of that money could go towards helping homeless people in the county.

Copyright 2021 WWNY. All rights reserved.