After discussions concerning the historic nature of the site and potential environmental problems, Columbus Council voted Tuesday night to accept possession for no more than one year of the old Claflin School on Fifth Avenue.
The site, where the original Claflin School, the first public school for black children in Columbus once stood, may be considered as a potential "one-stop shop" multiple resource center for homeless people.
The current structure, which was built after the original building burned down in 1958, could present structural and environmental problems that concern Councilor Mike Baker.
"I just know on something that old, we need to be careful about environmentals and things like that, because you never know what you're going to run into," Baker said.
The Claflin property originally was deeded to the city of Columbus school system in 1880 to be used solely for educational purposes. The deed states that if it is no longer being used for educational purposes, it is to be deeded to the city government. The deed further states that if the city decides not to use it for education, ownership would transfer back to the federal government, which developed the first school under the auspices of the Freedmen's Bureau after the Civil War.
Among the proposed ideas for the resource center would be to assist the homeless with getting a GED and to provide job training, which may or may not satisfy the educational requirement.
Christie Bevis, executive director of Home for Good, which implements the city's 10-year plan to end homelessness, welcomed the decision and said she looks forward to working with the city government and other resource providers on assessing the property.
"I think it will mean working with the city manager's office, particularly with community reinvestment, and bringing in homeless service providers and then additional stakeholders to figure out what can be done," she said.
Councilor Judy Thomas expressed support for the project, but said she hoped the historic aspect of the site be respected.
"Claflin School represents a big piece of our educational history in Columbus," Thomas said. "I'm hoping someone that will be willing to take on this project and develop a place where our homeless can go and get the services that they need so that we can meet our goal of making homelessness temporary, atypical and non-reoccurring."