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Missouri Hotel Closing Won't Happen Until Sometime in March

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Michele Skalicky
/
KSMU

Today (2/27) is the date The Kitchen, Inc. originally set for closing the Missouri Hotel.  But the building will remain open for a little while longer.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more.

There are still 109 people living at the Missouri Hotel—on the date that was originally targeted for the shelter’s closure.  But Rorie Orgeron said February 27 was a just a target date they set when they announced the closing of the hotel in January.

"It looks like it's going to go into March, probably a couple--two or three weeks," he said.

He said close to 60 people have already been moved to apartments across the city. 

According to Orgeron, they’re making progress, and the move is going smoothly.

"Before we even announced it we had everybody qualified to go to apartments and different things, so it's just really, just finding apartments to get the people into," he said.

Plans are to put the Missouri Hotel on the market as soon as everyone is moved out—that likely will be towards the end of March.  Orgeron was hesitant to guess what the building might be worth but says it’s likely in the range of $800,000 to $1 million.

He said they’ve already seen some interest in the building.

"We've had a couple of people call us and ask us.  We've had a couple of people walk through the building, but nobody's made any offers yet, but we do have some interest," he said.

Orgeron is excited about the future.  He said the closing of the Missouri Hotel will mean they no longer will have to maintain a building that costs The Kitchen, Inc. a lot of money each year.  And he said they’ll be able to focus donor dollars on things that will have a bigger impact.

The Kitchen plans to move away from transitional and emergency housing and toward more permanent, affordable housing throughout the community.

And he said the change will mean homeless families and single women seeking help at The Kitchen won’t be put into a shelter with no definite end, and they’ll hopefully be able to eventually get back on their feet.

"There's a much better chance of that happening the quicker you can get them into their own housing and especially to make sure that they continue to have the services like case managers, all the wrap around services that you can provide to make sure they're successful," he said.

Sondra Baumchen and her husband Travis have lived at the Missouri Hotel with their two children for more than 1 ½ years. 

Sitting in the lobby of the Missouri Hotel with her 16-month-old daughter on her lap, Sondra said they still don’t know when they’re going to move, and they don’t have an apartment yet.  She said the idea of being in their own place is exciting but scary.

"Because here with everybody we're kind of like a family, like, the family's all moving to separate parts of town, but it's exciting to be able to have your own space, cook yourself, have your kids by yourself, let them run around and be kids," she said.

Baumchen said the privacy will be nice and so will having a place where visitors can come.

"People that can come over and actually visit, people can't go upstairs so we have to stay down here--they can't really visit with a lot, so," he said.

And she’ll be glad to have more space.  They currently all share a single room at the Missouri Hotel.

And there are a lot of rules to follow.  That’s why Travis Baumchen is looking forward to one thing in particular.

"Independence.  Independence," he said.

But he shares his wife’s anxieties about the upcoming change.  He said he suffers from a mental disability.

"It's kind of hard for me to adjust, you know.  I've adjusted now, but when we transition to our new place, it's going to be difficult for me then again," he said.

Sondra said she’s looking forward to finishing up her GED and starting a career.  And Travis is excited about the future, too, although at the same time, he worries about what’s ahead.

"Unlimited possibilities, I mean, I want to go back to college, you know, but a lot of different things, you know, it's going to have its ups and downs because we're not used to providing for our own, you know, we've had to rely on the Hotel, you know, to help us with a lot of our stuff, like diapers, wipes, clothes, food, you know, shelter, you know and we're going to have to go back out and start doing it all again, but, you know, in the long run it's going to be a positive outlook," he said.

Once the Missouri Hotel closes, The Kitchen, Inc. will still offer emergency shelter beds in two other buildings on its campus, according to Orgeron.  He said People will stay there until they can be moved into more permanent locations.

"It's apartments where they can go.  It's large enough--you know, it's a regular apartment, two and three bedroom apartments, so a couple of single females might be sharing an apartment, but families will also have a place to go," he said.

He said the long-term goal is to build a new facility where both singles and families can stay and where caseworkers can help them get the services they need.

"We'll max out at 50 beds versus the 170 beds, but what our goal is is to turn over that 50 very quickly and then you won't have a lot of people sleeping out on the streets and that type of thing," he said.

Orgeron said he wants to remind the community that The Kitchen, Inc. is still there fighting the fight.

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