Nonprofit turns hotel into winter shelter, studio apartments

Roof Above has purchased an 88-room hotel in southwest Charlotte, with plans to convert the building into affordable housing for people who are chronically homeless.

The nonprofit recently finalized the purchase of a former Quality Inn hotel on Clanton Road near Interstate 77. The rooms immediately will be used for winter shelter and next year renovated into studio apartments.

“We believe so firmly that housing is the solution to homelessness,” said Liz Clasen-Kelly, CEO of Roof Above, the name for the merged Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Urban Ministry Center.

The units will be for people who have been homeless for more than a year and who have physical or mental health conditions or substance use disorders, which are barriers to staying housed.

“There really is a need, not just for the affordable housing but for the support services to go with that housing,” Clasen-Kelly said. Residents will have access to a case manager, nurse and other resources on site.

The project will replicate the model from Moore Place, which opened in 2012.

Next year Roof Above plans to add kitchens in each room and convert the units into studio apartments. The budget for the purchase, renovation and initial operating costs is $12 million, officials said.

This is the second Roof Above venture this year to expand permanent supportive housing. In September, the nonprofit announced it had bought the 341-unit HillRock Estates apartments in east Charlotte, where 75 units will be used for permanent supportive housing.

‘An opportunity’

Officials had initially planned to expand supportive housing through new construction. But as the pandemic grew and leaders sought more hotel rooms to decrease shelter crowding, they learned the hotel’s former owners were looking to sell.

Renovating an existing facility is faster and more cost-efficient, Clasen-Kelly said.

“The pandemic has created, clearly, such hardship and suffering, but there are opportunities that the pandemic has created as well,” she said. “This is one of the silver linings is the potential you shift in some hotels and motels into affordable housing throughout the country.”

Hotels have been a potential solution for affordable housing advocates around the United States. And as the tourism industry struggles amid the pandemic, more buildings may become available.

Locally, nonprofit Heal Charlotte announced a $10 million capital campaign this fall to buy and renovate a hotel into affordable housing.

Winter shelter

Before the renovations at the Clanton Road site begin the hotel will immediately be used for winter shelter for women and children who are clients of the Salvation Army Center of Hope.

Emergency shelter has been challenging during the pandemic, with typical congregate living and dining systems more risky for spreading COVID-19.

Shelters like Roof Above and others have lowered capacities and moved some residents into hotel rooms to practice social distancing. Other programs like the Room in the Inn, where local congregations and other groups housed small groups of people during the winter, have been canceled this year because of concerns around managing them safely.

Clasen-Kelly said adjustments, including using more hotel rooms and re-opening the winter shelter on Statesville Avenue that had closed while a replacement facility is under construction next door, has created a net increase in shelter beds this winter.

In addition to a previously announced $500,000 donation from the Duke Energy Foundation, the project will use $2 million from the city of Charlotte and $1 million from the Springsteen Foundation.

“We are honored to partner with Roof Above to ensure our most vulnerable neighbors have dignified shelter this winter and housing for many years to come,” said Springsteen Foundation board member Claude Close.

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Lauren Lindstrom is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering affordable housing. She previously covered health for The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, where she wrote about the state’s opioid crisis and childhood lead poisoning. Lauren is a Wisconsin native, a Northwestern University graduate and a 2019 Report for America corps member.
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