The request for proposals to use the former Community Welcome House building will be released March 1.
The RFP was originally set to go out Feb. 15, but was delayed, according to Carol Prince-Breissinger, executive director of Coweta County Family Connection.
Family Connection is working with the building’s owner, Jim Sells, on the RFP process.
The RFP will be open through April 15, and an open house at the property on Pine Road will be held in the next few weeks, Prince-Breissinger said.
The RPF will be available on the Coweta Family Connection website, coweta.gafcp.org .
Sells has named the new project Hope House. The house contains several rooms that can house up to 30 people, as well as family rooms, a kitchen, playroom and offices. There is also a large outbuilding that housed a classroom, pantry and laundry facility when the building was the county’s shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence. It was set up with rooms of various sizes for up to nine women and their children.
“The RFP is open to anybody to apply with the description of what you’re going to use the home for, how you're going to financially sustain it, what programs and services you are going to offer,” Prince-Breissinger said. All of the submittals will be reviewed by a committee and presented to Sells for a selection.
“Hopefully by May 15 we will have an agency that is ready to take over that house and do what they want to do for the community,” Prince-Breissinger said.
However, the uses of the building may be severely restricted by Coweta’s ordinances. The building operated for many years as a woman’s shelter, and that’s what it had a permit for, but since it hasn’t operated for over two years, that permit may no longer be valid. The county has an ordinance regulating “transitional shelters,” but it is very restrictive – by design.
The transitional shelter ordinance was passed in July 2010 after BelAir, a former assisted living facility in rural Coweta near Sargent, began operating as a homeless shelter, without county oversight.
Nearby homeowners complained of BelAir residents walking up and down roadsides, and approaching a child playing in yards for money. The BelAir shelter was shut down in late January 2011.
At the July meeting when the ordinance was approved, former Commissioner Robert Wood pleaded with the commissioners not to pass it. Wood said that the regulations would virtually guarantee that no shelter could ever open in Coweta.
In addition to requiring a commercial kitchen and only allowing transitional shelters in certain zoning districts, the ordinance doesn’t allow anyone on probation or parole, anyone with a felony conviction within the past five years, or with a “history of arrest or juvenile delinquency” to stay at the shelter.
Shelters must provide transportation and a structured program of job training, counseling and medical care, and must require residents to sign an agreement stating they will actively participate in the programs. Those who don’t participate would be required to leave.
Prince-Breissinger said that while the safety regulations are important, “there are some sections of the ordinance that we would like to see the reins loosened a little bit."
For more information about the RFP, email HopeHouseRPF@gmail.com .