Souls Harbor exploring sale of buildings, move

Dianna Gurley, executive director of Souls Harbor, stands in the Souls Harbor chapel Monday as she talks about the possibility of relocating operations to a single building elsewhere. She said operating in two locations a block apart is inefficient and inconvenient. GLOBE | ROGER NOMER

Joplin’s longest serving homeless shelter turns 40 this year and could have something else big to celebrate.

Souls Harbor is working on relocation to a larger, interconnected campus near downtown that will provide more space for those in need of temporary housing and other assistance such as clothing and food.

Diana Gurley, executive director, said shelter directors intend to buy buildings that formerly housed a roofing supply business at 415 W. Junge Blvd.

Shelter representatives have been talking to business owners in that area to make connections and note plans. “They all seem to be on board with it, so now we will get out and start talking to residents because we want them to be on board with it as well,” Gurley said. “We want everybody to be on the same page when we do go into the community. We don’t want to ruffle any feathers.”

In addition, a public open house is planned for 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 20, at the new location.

“Anybody in the community or the surrounding area who wants to come, wants to see what it’s like and wants to find out how we do things can come and we will be happy to answer their questions,” Gurley said. “Anybody who has any interest in it at all and wants an opportunity to ask questions can come and let us share our dreams and aspirations with them.”

There are four buildings on the property, “so we’ll be able to move our offices, our free store, our pantry and our housing unit and have them all in one location,” Gurley said. Currently, Souls Harbor operates out of two buildings on separate blocks. The housing shelter and kitchen are at 915 S. Main St., and the offices, free store and a chapel for worship services are at 817 S. Main St.

Funding to acquire and renovate the new location will involve selling the existing buildings including the 915 Main St. location where Souls Harbor first started in February 1982 by Art Jones and his wife, Georgia.

“We do have some investors looking at our properties,” Gurley said.

“The buildings are more viable than ever now,” said Lori Haun, executive director of the Downtown Joplin Alliance. “With the other developing going on in that area and in downtown in general, there’s more demand for commercial uses and not as many spaces available.”

Haun said she coordinated a couple of viewings of the Souls Harbor buildings recently by investors, “so I don’t think there will be a problem as long as everything falls together on their end.”

Potential uses for the properties include housing over commercial spaces. There is a commercial kitchen in the building at 915 S. Main St. that could provide an opportunity for a restaurant there, Haun said.

The buildings that Souls Harbor intends to buy will provide 24,000 square feet and will allow all of the mission’s operations to be on one level rather than multifloor buildings.

“Also, we will be able to have a section just for families, which has been my heart’s desire ever since I got here anyway,” Gurley said.

Now the existing shelter has space for three families, and that will expand to five or six families at the new site, she said. If there are more than three families at the current location, the mother and children stay in upstairs rooms and the father has to stay separately in the men’s dorm on a lower floor.

They will be able to house 26 other people in the new buildings, 16 men and 10 women. In addition there will be spaces for a large community room to hold worship services and other gatherings.

The buildings at the new site will require some work. There is already a finished office, but the space intended for the community room will have to be finished.

The dorms for the single men and women will have to be finished on the inside. The free store will be located on the end of that building.

There is a long building on the back where families will be housed along with the kitchen and cafeteria. That building is open space and will need to be closed in and finished and new siding installed on the exterior. The fourth building will be remodeled into apartments for staff members who live on-site.

Also, there is a courtyard-type space between the buildings that can be used for outdoor space and a playground for children. Currently, parents have to walk the children across Main Street to get to a fenced playground across from the shelter building.

The Next Step-Joplin, an organization that helps those without homes or people in need, used the Junge Boulevard property to allow people to get in out of the cold last winter.

One of the leaders of that organization, Josh Shackles, said the building is owned by Legacy Tuition Investments. Before it was a roofing supply business, it was occupied by a wiring supply store.

He said that Next Step will continue its mission even if Souls Harbor takes over the buildings.

“The primary purpose of our group is to help connect people to resources, and we will continue to do that from another location,” Shackles said. “We will continue our mission and continue it at times in cooperation with Souls Harbor.”

Gurley said the minimum expense for the purchase and renovation of the buildings will be $500,000.

It will be some time before the move takes place. Plans are to close on the acquisition of the property in October. Remodeling work will then take a year or more, it is estimated, so the anticipated move could be in fall 2023 or spring 2024, Gurley said.

The new site also will require rezoning through the city, Gurley said.

But she is looking forward to all those stages of the move.

“I think it is going to be very exciting to have it all in one spot, to be able to provide more services, and have it all-inclusive like that is going to be wonderful,” she said.

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