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Front Page » Top Stories » Camillus House Move Clears Final Hurdle

Camillus House Move Clears Final Hurdle

Written by on September 21, 2006

By Deserae del Campo
Camillus House move clears final hurdleBy Deserae del Campo

The Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved a land swap between the University of Miami and Camillus House, the final hurdle in the homeless shelter’s 22-year effort to move to a modern facility outside of downtown.

Camillus has an agreement with the university, the city and the state for a 60-year lease on 3.1 acres at Northwest Seventh Avenue and 16th Street for care and rehabilitation of the homeless.

"There was an endorsement of the project by the governor’s cabinet and also congratulations on the project," said Camillus President Paul Ahr. He said the review went "perfectly."

"Our next step is to basically get started in the land-transaction issues," he said. "Now we have a basis to launch our capital campaign for $60 million" to fund the new facility.

Camillus officials have been trying since 1984 to move into a facility bigger than its shelters near the Miami Arena but met denial from city commissioners and disapproval from residents.

Camillus was denied rezoning and permitting at Northwest Third Court and Northwest Fifth Street in 1985 after neighborhood protests. In 1992, it tried to move to Allapattah, but the commission vetoed that, too.

UM and Camillus officials agreed last year to trade adjoining parcels on Northwest Seventh Avenue. The charity plans a three-story, 340-bed shelter, rehabilitation facility and townhouse complex on land now owned by the university between Northwest 17th and 20th streets.

The proximity to Jackson Memorial Hospital will be good for the community, Mr. Ahr said. "We think it’s a good site for the facility."

University officials want to build a 1.4 million-square-foot biosciences center on land at Northwest 17th Avenue that Camillus now leases.

City commissioners unanimously approved the move during a July meeting amid protest from residents.

As a condition of approval, the commission requested that an advisory board be created to report twice yearly to the city on Camillus operations. Another condition was to require an off-duty police officer to patrol the new facility.

Mr. Ahr said Camillus House officials are in the process of establishing a citizens advisory board and is "looking forward" to its creation.

The Brothers of the Good Shepherd established Camillus House in 1960 as a small soup kitchen that cared for newly arrived Cubans. Today, Camillus House operates 14 facilities in the county including emergency shelters, transitional housing and job training centers.

The cost to build the new shelter is estimated at $30 million and a town-home complex for those who complete rehabilitation will probably cost $24 million. Camillus will provide beds and assistance to city residents who are homeless and people who sleep on streets within 1.5 miles of the center.

The facility is to include a kennel for homeless clients to keep their pets while they are in the program. It also will include a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot courtyard for homeless who don’t want to sleep indoors. Advertisement