FAQ&A: Jackson’s men’s homeless shelter


The men’s homeless shelter that’s been in development with the City of Jackson for more than three years has become a point of contention for certain members of the Jackson City Council.

It’s also become one of the foundational concerns regarding the yet-to-be-approved 2024-25 fiscal budget.

The shelter has officially been placed on the agenda for the July 2 monthly City Council meeting as Council member Candace Busby didn’t feel businesses in Downtown Jackson had an adequate opportunity to have their voices heard regarding this service that is set to be placed a few blocks from their businesses.

Here are 13 frequently asked questions and their answers regarding the shelter going into Tuesday’s meeting:

Question: Why is the City building a men’s shelter?

Answer: There are already a number of shelters for women throughout the city run by non-profits, but almost nothing regular for men outside of Room in the Inn, and that has somewhat strict guidelines. In December of 2020, a homeless man who couldn’t utilize Room in the Inn froze to death. It was soon after that when Mayor Scott Conger directed his leadership team to begin the work of developing a shelter for men.

Q: Where will the shelter be located?

A: On McCorry Street on the western edge of Downtown Jackson near McMillan Towers, which is a facility of Jackson Housing Authority.

Q: Why at that location?

A: The City wanted the shelter to be near the services already provided for the homeless community like RIFA, Area Relief Ministries, Community Café and others, which are all located in Downtown, according to Innovation Chief Lauren Kirk when discussing the location with the Council during an agenda review meeting on May 30.

Q: How much is the City set to pay for the shelter?

A: As of right now, the total cost is $3.4 million. $1.7 million of that is coming from different grants from HUD and other sources. The City hoped to get the shelter built totally funded by the grants, but once the construction manager, Henson Construction and TLM associates, completed three different designs and two bid processes for the building, the minimum cost was determined to be $3.4 million. Conger said he committed to fund the balance between grants and the full price from City funds to ensure its construction.

Q: Will it be staffed? And by whom?

A: Yes. Once the City builds the shelter, they will lease the facility to Tennessee Homeless Solutions for $1 per year, according to Kirk. Tennessee Homeless Solutions will then run the day-to-day operations including having a full-time director living on the premises.

Q: Will there be security on staff?

A: THS will ensure security of the building in conjunction with Jackson Police and Madison County Sheriff’s office, according to different statements by Kirk and THS Director Amy McDonald.

Q: How many will it house, and how long will they be able to stay?

A: While the full capacity of the building as it stands right now is nearly 90 people, the plan is to have only 25 living there at one time with a maximum stay of 90 days for each client, according to Kirk's explanation about the capacity when asked on May 30 by Council member Larry Lowrance. THS case managers will be responsible for transitioning shelter residents to their next steps by the 90-day mark, whether it be permanent supportive housing or placement in a residential treatment program. This means the shelter will serve at minimum 100 men over the course of a year and 1,000 men over 10 years. This doesn’t include the number served through day shelter or emergency inclement shelter at the facility.

Q: What are the specific wrap-around services to be offered?

A: The facility will resemble a dormitory with bathrooms for different pods of residents. Every service THS provides will be provided at the facility. Short-term supplies like snacks and toiletries will be available, but also longer-term needs like access to job training and information on affordable housing will also be available.

Q: What is the point of contention of people questioning it now?

A: There are a lot of plans for Downtown on the horizon including a redevelopment plan from the City that includes new businesses like a boutique hotel and a repurposing of the old Jackson Sun building according to what the Council members are hearing when discussing the issue with business owners. There is a concern among business owners already there that the presence of the shelter will attract more homeless people to the area.

Q: What steps will be taken to ensure no one will be using non-prescribed drugs at the facility?

A: Kirk said everyone will be checked upon entering the facility, and random drug tests will be performed routinely.

Q: What punishment will there be if they’re caught using illegal drugs there?

A: That hasn’t been publicly stated if it’s determined yet.

Q: How will this be funded going forward?

A: THS is funded by federal grants and private donations. This will be a large tax on their annual budget, and they plan to seek more funding to ensure its success.

Q: Is there evidence that facilities like this leads to a spike in local unhouse populations?

A: Bussing unhoused people to different cities is a practice some cities across the country have typically done. There’s been no documented evidence of it happening in Jackson, but some are concerned there will be once the shelter is built.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news