Apartments for the homeless planned on South Bend’s east side

By: Jeff Parrot

Originally posted Sept 18, 2020 – Link

SOUTH BEND — A year after the South Bend Common Council rejected plans to build apartments for the homeless west of downtown, city and South Bend Heritage leaders Friday announced new plans to build the residences in the Edison Park neighborhood.

The nonprofit developer plans to start construction in the spring on a 22-unit apartment building called “Hope Avenue Apartments.” It will be located on Hope Avenue next to Corby Homes, a subsidized apartment complex, and a block east of Edison Middle School, near the Ironwood Drive-Corby Boulevard intersection.

In a model known as “housing first” permanent supportive housing, Oaklawn, the mental health agency, will have offices in the building and will offer services to the tenants, such as helping them access health insurance and addiction recovery.

South Bend Heritage will pay for the project with about $3.9 million in federal grant money passed down through the state and city. Tenants will be chosen from a “coordinated entry list” of about 160 people who are chronically homeless, as determined by area homeless service providers, Mariani said.

The site is already zoned for multi-family housing and was once owned by Madison Center, formerly the area’s community mental health agency.

“The intention always was to have apartments here, client-serving residential apartment units,” said Marco Mariani, executive director of South Bend Heritage.

Mariani said he had been considering the two-acre site for a couple of years but its Texas-based owner hadn’t agreed to sell it until July.

On Aug. 27, 2019, the Common Council voted 7-2 to deny a rezoning that South Bend Heritage needed to build the apartments in the 1500 block of west Washington Street, after neighbors voiced their opposition during an emotional four-hour hearing. Near the end of that meeting, when it was clear council members were going to deny the rezoning, Mariani told them, “We’re not going anywhere, we will pursue this.”

Council members then criticized South Bend Heritage for failing to communicate with the West Washington site’s neighbors soon enough. At a press conference Friday at the new site, Troy Warner, the council member in whose district it lies, said South Bend Heritage sent neighbors a letter last week announcing the plans.

Warner said he had received a “couple emails” from neighbors expressing “concerns.”

“The fear of what could happen is greater than the reality of what happens,” Warner said, noting he once lived next to recovering addicts being served by Oaklawn in a home on Marquette Avenue. “I’ve told them that there’s not going to be a council vote on this. The project is going to happen. These are going to be new neighbors next fall. Greet them, reach out to them, get to know their new neighbors. These are people and humans.”

South Bend Heritage will pay for the project with about $3.9 million in federal grant money passed down through the state and city. Tenants will be chosen from a “coordinated entry list” of more than 200 people who are chronically homeless, as determined by area homeless service providers, Mariani said.