Apartment complex may become homeless project

Springfield residents say they don't know what's going on

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Residents in Springfield say they've been blindsided by a nonprofit organization looking to renovate a 12-unit apartment complex and turn it into a housing project for the homeless.

Ability Housing of Northeast Florida says it received a state-funded grant to renovate the units at 139 Cottage Avenue, but residents are concerned about who will be living there once the building is finished.

Ability Housing says it's only trying to improve the lives of former veterans who are looking for a second chance. But people in the area say there has been a major lack of communication, leaving community members confused about what the organization's plans are for the building.

Members of the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization group say they didn't hear about Ability Housing's plan to take the complex, renovate it and turn it into a homeless housing project until last week.

JoAnn Tredennick, vice president of the SPAR Council, said the organization plans on only accepting the "chronically homeless." She said the chronically homeless are described as people with diagnosed mental illnesses, and drug and substance abuse problems.

"They need to take this project somewhere else," Tredennick said. "This neighborhood is already jam-packed with these sorts of facilities and uses. We need economic diversity to be a viable and sustainable neighborhood."

Tredennick said as far as she knows, there is no solid screening process for people looking to live at the complex.

But Ability Housing's executive director, Shannon Nazworth, said that's not true.

Lisa Crocker, who's lived in the building for five years, said no one from the organization talked with her about the project. She said she's confused about what will happen to her if the building is sold.

"Where are you going to put them at anyway? All of them are full. Every one of them is full," Crocker said. "So what are they going to do, make us move out? That's my question. I ain't trying to move."

Nazworth said the nonprofit would never just kick people out but would treat them like other applicants for the building to see if they are a good fit. If not, she said it would help those people find another place to live.

The property manager said that nothing is done until it's done and said because of a confidentiality agreement, he couldn't say who was interested in buying the building. He said everyone is jumping to conclusions and shouldn't make assumptions on things they don't know about.

Ability Housing and SPAR plan to hold a private meeting Tuesday night to get more information on the project.

SPAR will hold a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Woman's Club building on West Seventh Street to discuss the project.