Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

City shuts down JUICE Orange Mound shelter, calling building ‘dangerous’

“The bottom line is that the building is not safe for occupancy, and it needed to be shut down,” said the release from the city.

By: Kim Chaney

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis said it has shut down the shelter at JUICE Orange Mound because the building is not safe.

JUICE Orange Mound operates out of a former retail store in the 2300 block of Park Ave. During the day, the center helps coordinate services for the homeless. At night, up to 10 people would sleep there.

According to a release Tuesday from the city, officials said the building was inspected several times over the last year, and they tried to work with the property owner to “fix a myriad of safety issues.” They said there was no working smoke detector or sprinkler system.

In the release, the city said, “The City’s Office of Planning and Development, Code Enforcement and Memphis Fire Department could not risk a tragedy happening like this situation in Oakland five years ago in which 36 people died in a fire when people were allowed to occupy a building that was not up to code.”

The city also said the building did not have running water or working restrooms, shower, laundry, or sleeping facilities that separated men from women and children, which is required. They also said three meals a day should be provided – all of which are requirements to be considered a shelter.

“The bottom line is that the building is not safe for occupancy, and it needed to be shut down,” said the release.

Officials said the building owner has been cited to court after requests for minimum safety standards were not met. They said the building could reopen if it’s brought up to code and made safe for people.

In a Facebok post Monday, JUICE Orange Mound posted: “On Friday January 28th, Director John Zeanah with the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development closed down the HubOM located at 2363 Park Avenue, Memphis TN 38114.  

Currently, the Orange Mound Community Center is not operating as a warming center.  

Immediately 17 residents being housed at our facility have been displaced. Director Zeanah’s instruction was to refer them to the warming center located in East Memphis at Marion Hale Community Center.  

At this emergency shelter, guest are provided sheets and space to sleep on the floor.  In comparison, our facility provided food, clothing, shelter, a bed, and most importantly community. 

To date, we have not heard from Mayor Strickland or Mayor Harris though numerous appeals have been made to both offices. 

This week weather will be below freezing .

To our supporters, we thank you for the 11 months and 13 days of consistent direct service to the homeless community of Historic Orange Mound.  

We stepped up to fill a need and learned so much in the process. #failFORWARD 

To all, hang tight, the next level will be even better!  #WeAllWeGot #HousingIsAHumanRight #OMstrong.”

In early January, Founder Britney Thornton told ABC 24 she wanted to open a warming center, but the property is not zoned for that. Thornton said she needed a zoning variance to be able to continue operating.

“We just have this technical hurdle they are telling us we have to do to continue to operate,” said Thornton at the time. “The struggle right now is red tape that we never anticipated ever having to go through has caught up with us.”

Thornton told us the warming center and shelter wasn’t planned, but just happened when the Mid-South had a cold snap last winter and people needed a place to stay.

“We opened the building as a temporary warming center, and it was always meant to be a temporary warming center. But once we opened up, we saw how many people were in need of shelter,” said Thornton. “We clearly have been meeting the direct housing need. That is not a problem. It is just making sure we meet what the Code Enforcement and Office of Planning and Development regulations are.”

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