ATLANTIC CITY — Since last summer, Allen AME Church has been sitting closed on Bishop Richard Allen Avenue in the Westside neighborhood here.
Rev. Collins A. Day Sr. and the Vision 2000 Community Development Corporation organization, envisions converting the church and its adjacent family life center building into the Turning Point Day Center for the homeless, which would give them a constructive place to visit during the daytime.
“Right now, they are all over the city,” Days said.
The homeless can stay at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission at night, eat at Sister Jean’s Kitchen and receive help from Jewish Family Services and various churches, but they have to figure out how to occupy their time from 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., which the Turning Point Day Center would address.
Days, pastor of Second Baptist Church here, said he has spent the past three years looking for a place where the homeless could stay during the daytime.
“We have wanted a Day Center for years. One of the issues has been location, and timing in terms of trying to get people to buy in,” said Days, who added there was a reluctance to have the Day Center in the city’s tourism district.
The creation of the Atlantic Homeless Alliance in Atlantic City three years ago did help.
It provided the information that most of the homeless people were county residents and not people from out of town, Days said.
Local business leaders have held meetings, which included Donna Danielson, general manager of Tanger Outlets Atlantic City, and Rita Mack, the co-owner of the McDonald’s on Arkansas Avenue here, said Kay Petrecca, community & government relations representative, Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
“There is a concern with people who are aggressively panhandling,” said Petrecca, who added they might keep tourists from coming back to the city
The people who are in a program can stay at the Rescue Mission during the daytime, but not people who are transient, or who are not in a program, Petrecca said.
Petrecca has worked with the Rescue Mission for 27 years.
In this county, there is no homeless trust fund.
The idea has been brought up to add a $3 fee to the signing of deeds that would be put into a fund for the homeless for low-income or affordable housing, or a project like the Day Center, but it never came to pass.
On a recent Thursday, Days took people who would serve on the Day Center’s policies and procedures committee on a tour of the facility.
There is a reception area, showers, a kitchen and as many as seven restrooms in the family life center.
Large rooms exist where community meetings could be held.
The plan is to have a recreation room that would include with free wi-fi, a computer lab, a ping pong and pool table, and video games.
A patch of green grass sits across the street from the church where a community garden could be started, Days said.
The idea is to have the Day Center been a one-stop shop where many services for the homeless could be given as possible, including some medical care, veteran and psychiatric services and substance abuse counseling, Days said.
“So far, everybody has been very, very supportive,” Days said. “Here is a building that is turn key, sweep out the cobwebs, mop the floors... and this will be the facility.”
Floor plans are being drawn up, so they can be sent to architect.
Eventually, this plan would be presented to the city’s planning board as it would have to approve the building’s use being changed from a church to the homeless center, Days said.
Vision 2000 needs to raise $550,000 to buy the church its adjacent family life center. A letter of intent to sell is being drawn up.
After the contract is signed, Vision 2000 will have 90 days to raise the money.
“We are working hard. We are working backwards from the need,” Days said.
A fundraiser will be held for the Turning Point Day Center at 7 p.m. May 25 at the Tropicana Casino and Resort.
Tickets are $150 each. They can be purchased by calling Second Baptist Church at 609-348-3580.
The Turning Point Day Center also has a gofundme page that was established on March 27 with the goal of raising $100,000. The address is gofundme.com/stand-up-for-the-invisibles