Fort Worth daytime homeless shelter must move

FORT WORTH -- The Day Resource Center must find a new location after Union Gospel Mission officials said they will not renew the lease next year for the day shelter building on East Lancaster Avenue.

Board member Rickey Brantley said Union Gospel Mission has no immediate plans for the property but may eventually need it for its own services.

In 1998, the Day Resource Center, a daytime homeless shelter, signed a 15-year lease for $100 to use the mission's building. That lease expires in August 2013, and mission officials informed resource center officials recently to allow plenty of time to move, Brantley said.

Bruce Frankel, executive director of the resource center, said that the decision was not a surprise and that the building is now so dilapidated that a more modern location is needed anyway.

Resource center officials and its 18-member board will spend the next few months evaluating options, including building a new facility or buying a building near the current one, he said.

"We won't be going out of business," Frankel said. "We are nothing but grateful for the generosity of the Union Gospel Mission in offering their building for 15 years."

Brantley said the mission is a supporter of the Day Resource Center, which he said provides "a great service." An average of 350 homeless people visit the center each day, taking advantage of showers, laundry services, telephones and storage for personal belongings, among other things.

"We want to help them get relocated," Brantley said. "We try to work with them hand in hand every day in helping Tarrant County's homeless."

Created long before the city had a homeless plan, the Day Resource Center grew out of a 1997 feature story by Star-Telegram reporter Jeff Guinn, who spent one week living as a homeless person in Fort Worth. Titled "No Direction Home," it highlighted the need for a day shelter because homeless people had nowhere to rest or even use the bathroom until the overnight shelters opened in the evening.

The Union Gospel Mission provided the building, a two-story, boarded-up appliance store.

Near the Union Gospel Mission, Presbyterian Night Shelter and the Salvation Army, the day shelter is a short walk for many homeless people. However, over time, the brick mortar has crumbled and the roof has leaked, Frankel said. It was originally designed with one bathroom, and plumbing problems are frequent.

It has also gotten cramped with increased usage, he said. Last year, the facility saw 1,735 unduplicated visitors; this year, it has already seen 1,600.

"As the years have gone by, the building has become less and less of a long-term, viable option," Frankel said.

Facility officials will look for a new location nearby so homeless people without transportation or with disabilities can reach it, Frankel said. It would ideally be no farther east on East Lancaster Avenue than the Salvation Army shelter.

Toby Owen, executive director of the Presbyterian Night Shelter, estimated that hundreds of his shelter's clients use the day shelter. They use telephones to make job contacts, receive mail there and get help from caseworkers.

"It's an extremely important resource for our clients as they try to improve their lives," he said.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1