TUPELO – Three years of waiting came to an end Tuesday as the Salvation Army started work on a brand new homeless shelter.
By next May, the Jim Ingram Red Shield Lodge, complete with apartments for families, will be open and the entire 37-year-old complex will have been renovated.
“This project actually dates back to 2014 when there was a study to see if the Salvation Army was executing its mission,” said Tupelo businessman Jack Reed Jr. “The answer came back quickly. The need was greater than the facility.
“And it was more than just a new shelter. When they looked, the entire facility needed help. There had not been a capital injection of funds since it was built in 1980.”
Reed, along with other businessmen, organized a capital campaign that raised $2.4 million to fully fund the project.
The new shelter will have separate dormitories for 25 men and 20 women.
It will also feature five apartments where families will be able to stay together as a unit. When the new shelter is completed, the current two-dorm shelter will be reconfigured into two more family-style apartments.
“This is a great beginning,” said Maj. Jeff Daniel, commander of the Tupelo Salvation Army. “Once we get the foundation built, the steel frame and concrete block walls will go up pretty quickly.
“The new shelter should be completed by March 2018. The renovation of the current community center and kitchen should occur at the same time. Once the new shelter is completed, they will start on the current shelter.
“By this time next year, all the work should be complete.”
The first phase of the project will be removing dirt and preparing the foundation for the new building. City codes require the site to be elevated about three feet to get it out of the flood plain.
Board members Dan Franklin and V.M. Cleveland are donating equipment and employees to start the dirtwork this week.
“Any penny the Salvation Army can save, we’ll do it,” Franklin said. “Helping out with the dirtwork could save up to $40,000.”
The city issued a permit Monday to begin the foundation dirtwork. The final plans have not been approved by the Salvation Army.
Daniel said getting final prices for renovating the commercial kitchen in the community center has held up the overall project.
The new shelter is named after former businessman and National Guard general Jim Ingram, who was instrumental in bringing the Salvation Army to Tupelo.