A multiyear process to launch a veritable one-stop home for affordable housing and homeless prevention services came to fruition Sept. 8 with the opening of the O’Reilly Center for Hope.
The roughly $3 million community hub, housed in the former Pepperdine Elementary School at 1518 E. Dale St., is a Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc. project. With the center, CPO brought together over a dozen agencies to provide resources and services to people in poverty or without housing, as well as those in need of mental health care. The nonprofit focuses on collaborative youth, family, neighborhood and community services.
“We wanted something that was going to be big enough for all our partners,” said CPO President and CEO Janet Dankert. “Our vision and dream was to have everybody in one place.”
CPO bought the roughly 24,000-square-foot building in northeast Springfield from Springfield Public Schools for $100,000 in 2018. The O’Reilly family – Charlie and Mary Beth, David, Larry and Rosalie O’Reilly Wooten — donated $1 million toward the center, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Other funding includes $1 million in city-committed U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money, a $250,000 challenge grant from The J. E. and L. E. Mabee Foundation Inc. and a $20,000 grant from the BKD Foundation.
CPO is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise around $1 million for the project, Dankert said, noting the organization is still $500,000 short of its goal. The money will go toward completing renovations, but the funding shortage didn’t prevent the center’s September debut. A community grand opening is planned for October.
“Unfortunately when COVID hit, just like most all other nonprofits, fundraising just stopped,” she said. “We were responding to community needs just like everyone else. We are getting back on track with that.”
At the O’Reilly Center for Hope, the nonprofit relocated its Springfield Affordable Housing Center and One Door program, which provides homeless services, from its 5,000-square-foot 300 E. Central St. center. The nonprofit Springfield Community Land Trust also was housed in the former center and made the move this month, said Michelle Garand, CPO’s vice president of affordable housing and homeless prevention. The organization’s headquarters remain at 330 N. Jefferson Ave.
Among agencies that will have representatives in the O’Reilly Center for Hope are Burrell Behavioral Health, Isabel’s House and Jordan Valley Community Health Center.
“We are utilizing every square inch,” Garand said. “The entire building is now full.”
Sabrina Aronson, Burrell’s vice president of community services, said the center’s “one-stop shop” concept is valuable to connect those in need with help in a convenient manner.
“Individuals are not having to go all over town to get their needs met, which is super challenging,” she said. “Think about the challenges of somebody who may be living on the street and trying to get to all of those places.
“They are able to do it right there.”
The collaboration with CPO is one of several partnerships the behavioral health system has entered in recent years, including Fordland Clinic, Greene County Family Justice Center, Mercy Springfield Communities and Springfield Public Schools, according to past SBJ reporting.
“It’s a commitment and has been for a number of years to be in the community where people are and connects us most easily,” said Burrell spokesperson Matt Lemmon.
Burrell will occupy around 3,000 square feet in the O’Reilly Center for Hope with plans to move 10 employees in by early October, Aronson said. The agency will provide on-site case management and outreach services.
She said the outreach staffing and client services are part of a roughly $157,000 grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“We’re looking at what the service needs will be,” Aronson said. “So we’re talking about possibly doing some group services and individual therapy. Telehealth for psychiatry will be coming fairly quickly once we get moved in.”
The community hub model also is in place elsewhere in recently renovated former Springfield school buildings.
Numerous nonprofit agencies, such as the Drew Lewis Foundation Inc., Life360 Community Services and Springfield Community Gardens, occupy The Fairbanks, a 1906-built school at 1126 N. Broadway Ave. The Greene County Family Justice Center moved in June to the former Teftt School at 1418 E. Pythian St. after starting in 2018 on the second floor of the Greene County Judicial Courts building, 1010 E. Boonville Ave. The justice center provides on-site services from staff members of nine partner agencies, including Harmony House and The Victim Center Inc., according to past SBJ reporting.
The journey to find adequate space for CPO’s new center was nearly 18 months, Dankert said. The former Pepperdine Elementary checked the boxes of offering a large space in north Springfield and not requiring new construction. However, the 1919-built school that had been vacant for around seven years did require renovation.
“Pepperdine ended up being one of our last options, but now it’s turned out to be the best one,” she said. ”The thought of being able to preserve it while also making it this flourishing neighborhood center was really what sold it for us.”
The brick-and-stone exterior of the school was preserved, but over more than two years, the interior underwent “a complete overhaul,” Dankert said. It included replacing the heating, cooling and ventilation system, updating plumbing and electrical, and installing an elevator to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Waynesville-based Bales Construction Co. Inc. is general contractor on the project, with Paragon Architecture LLC as architect. Brad Erwin, Paragon president and principal architect, is on the CPO board and helped in the property search process, Dankert said.
Garand said CPO desired the center be a purpose-driven building that covers a variety of services such as substance abuse treatment, rent and utility assistance, affordable child care, food stamps and legal services. While the center is not a shelter, free resources are offered, including public showers, laundry service, mail access and a commissary to obtain health care and hygiene items.
“One of the things that this building and CPO promises to do is really keep our finger on the pulse of any gaps in need for everyone in the community,” she said.
While Dankert admitted a desire to open the center sooner, she never doubted its purpose or value, which she said is now especially important.
“It couldn’t come at a better time,” she said. “Even though COVID delayed some things and has made it a little harder for fundraising, this place is super needed.”
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