ATLANTIC CITY — Normally, Timothy Koons spends his afternoons hanging out with friends in the courtyard outside City Hall on Bacharach Boulevard.
On Wednesday, Koons, 41 and homeless, was in the air conditioning using his cellphone to fill out job applications online inside the Turning Point Day Center on Bishop Richard Allen Avenue.
“It’s good to come here and relax. … I have a place to sit, and I can get my thoughts together,” said Koons, who has been homeless for the past three months and has been staying with friends.
Koons had been living with his father in Absecon. When Koons’ father became ill, the parent left his Absecon home to live with one of his sons in Millville. The trailer was not big enough to also house Koons. After he was laid off at Atlantic City Linen Supply Inc., he came to the day center.
“I love it. It’s a great place. I feel safe. I’m off the street. There is cold air (air conditioning) and food,” Koons said.
The Turning Point Day Center, which opened Tuesday, has a multifaceted purpose of being a safe haven, offering recreation and providing services to those needing help returning to society. The property is being leased by the Vision 2000 Community Development Corp., a local non-profit group formed to improve the economic and social conditions of Atlantic City.
The Rev. Collins A. Days Sr., Vision 2000’s prinicipal officer, spearheaded the day center effort. Days said Vision 2000 will eventually seek to buy the property and will raise the funds this fall to do that.
Karen Temple said she was a victim of a wrongful eviction in March. She rented a room for as long as she could, but she now is at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. She stopped by the day center at least twice Wednesday.
“It’s nice,” said Temple, who added she was looking for help to find an apartment or furnished efficiency.
Temple, 46, said she spoke to a woman at the day center, who was trying to assist her. She said she spends weekdays walking to city and county offices seeking help.
The Turning Point Day Center is located in the former family life center adjacent to the now defunct Allen AME Church.
On the first floor, there is an activity room where people can read or play games such as chess or checkers. People were eating light refreshments in a place called the day room.
Next week, the first-floor kitchen should be operational to prepare meals, Days said.
The second floor features administrative offices for board meetings and another quiet/reading room with books donated by the Pleasantville School District. A flat-screen TV is waiting to be installed in the second-floor recreation room, which will also offer video games and pingpong.
Next week, Days hopes to start programming such as healthier cooking classes and Narcotics Anonymous.
Days believes the day center is located in a good spot in close proximity to places where the homeless and the perceived homeless congregate — the Atlantic City bus station and Renaissance Plaza, which has become the new hangout for people who used to gather at Brown’s Park.
It’s location in the Westside neighborhood may be convenient for the people who need to make use of its services, but there are some people who are concerned about the day center’s presence.
Vernell Beaufort, 72, who lives on Robinson Avenue, hated when the church closed last year, but he said he has a problem with drug addicts.
No drugs or alcohol are allowed on the day center premises, and Wednesday afternoon, gospel music was playing inside the day room.
John Dorn, who turns 79 in October, is a North Indiana Avenue resident who said he is not crazy about the day center for fear it will bring “undesirables” into the neighborhood.
Dorn said his mother came to Atlantic City from Augusta, Georgia, at a time when the resort was worse than the South. She had 11 children and no husband, and if there was any family that should not have succeeded, it was his.
The grandfather said the Dorns are well-known in Atlantic City, with Gene Dorn being a former Atlantic City Councilman.
Dorn said he could have turned to drinking or smoking crack.
“I have no sympathy for those who don’t help themselves,” said Dorn, who added he sees some men being dropped off at the bus station in the morning and heading to work while others are hanging out.