Recreational activities for children, including archery classes and open gym times, as well as a food pantry and other social services are up and running at the Springfield Salvation Army’s location on Clear Lake Avenue.
A controversial plan to also use the building — a former Gold’s Gym — as a shelter for homeless families is no longer in the Salvation Army’s plans, the Christian organization’s local administrator, Capt. Josh Stansbury, confirmed this week.
Instead, the Salvation Army will offer programs and services aimed at securing permanent housing for struggling families to keep them from becoming homeless.
Angela Harris, president of the Pioneer Park Neighborhood Association, said she feels like concerns about having a shelter in the mostly residential area were heard.
Meanwhile, local agencies say they are still trying to fill the need left by the Salvation Army closing its shelter two years ago.
A shift in national funding priorities away from emergency and transitional shelters toward permanent solutions to address homelessness, as well as input from their new neighbors, influenced the decision, Stansbury said.
“Looking at what it costs to shelter individuals versus gaining them permanent housing,” Stansbury said. “… Really, we looked at how can we make individuals’ (donated) money spread the furthest. We didn’t feel it was through sheltering.”
The Salvation Army suspended its shelter operations at its former location in 2015 as it prepared to rehabilitate a building at Ninth and Adams streets into a 52-bed facility for homeless men.
Last summer, city officials, the Salvation Army and Horace Mann Educators Corp. reached an agreement that led to the charity moving its operations to the former Gold’s Gym that had gone bankrupt. The move was made in October.
Horace Mann bought the Ninth Street property for $4 million from the Salvation Army to turn into a parking lot for its employees, using $1.6 million in tax increment financing money. Horace Mann expects to lose parking space to construction of a transportation hub that’s part of the city’s rail improvements.
The Salvation Army put part of the money from the sale toward buying the Clear Lake Avenue property and plans to use the rest for renovations to turn the facility into a community center. Those plans are still in the works, Stansbury said.
Residents are pleased with the focus on youth programming, Harris said.
“Sometimes we have latch-key kids who don’t want to go home alone, so they have a place now where they can be with their friends in a safe environment, that’s a good thing,” she said.
City officials have been meeting with the Salvation Army and members of the Pioneer Park group to ease their initial concerns. Mayor Jim Langfelder said he encouraged the Salvation Army to develop programs that respond to community needs.
“One thing I brought up to them is focusing on the working poor because…