MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – In the heart of downtown Bradenton, the old jail site along 6th Ave. W. sits empty. The 80,000 sq. ft. property has been vacant for than a decade, but now there are plans in the works to change that.
Manatee County has already agreed to allocate $15 million in federal funding to a project that would transform the old jail into a facility for homeless veterans. $2 million will be set aside for design and another $13 million for initial construction, according to Director of Neighborhood Services Lee Washington.
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Washington says the need for transitional housing is great.
“In this region, we have about maybe two to three veteran transitional housing programs now and they are filled. We have a lot of veterans that are still on the street using other systems to either get into housing whether it be temporary or permanent, but for those chronically homeless, there really aren’t programs to help them as far as intensive case management to work through some of the hurdles that they have come across and actually have them transition to self-sustainability,” Washington said.
There have been failed projects at the site of the old jail in the past. Commissioners are eager to see this vision become a reality.
“We are in a good position to do some great things and continue to embrace those who serve our country and step out on the front line for us in their time of need,” said Commissioner Reggie Bellamy.
Commissioner Bellamy brought the idea forward after visiting the facility a while back.
“My position was to make sure that we identify a model that could be something that could be identified across the country to make sure our service people and veterans are aware that we are there for them,” said Commissioner Bellamy.
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Commissioner Misty Servia said now is the time to create something great, pointing out the federal funding that will be used for the project.
“Everything is coming together at the right time where there’s a lot of federal money and we are able to create what is going to be a homeless shelter and transitional housing for our veterans and possibly even others,” said Commissioner Servia. “It is such a great opportunity because of the location and size. It is a huge facility. It is probably going to be the largest in the nation and it is centered right here in the heart of Bradenton so we have transportation opportunities and all the services that our veterans need located in this close proximity,” she continued.
Some are questioning how the new resources might impact the downtown area, however, most are in support of the plans.
“This is going to help the people who have served our country to get back involved in society and contribute locally and that is what we all want,” said Commissioner Servia.
More funding will be needed for the project. Washington said the county anticipates beginning construction within eight to 12 months.