Organization dreaming about former state facility

Published 5:15 pm Monday, July 31, 2017

BEAUMONT — A vacant state facility that thousands of drivers pass everyday may soon get a new lease on life.

Mike Conner, a spokesman with Beaumont Dream Center, spoke at a workshop on Monday morning to the Jefferson County Commissioners Court about their interest in developing the former Al Price State Juvenile Correctional Facility on Highway 69 into a state of the art recovery center. The work will be done through the Los Angeles Dream Center.

Beaumont Dream Center is asking for free utilities for the first six months so they can develop systems. Currently, it cost the county $60,000 a year for utilities at Al Price. They are also asking for a 20-year lease.

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“We’ve seen multiple lives changed (through the Dream Center),” Conner said. “My daughter lives in Nederland and that’s how we formed a connection. We did our first outreach in March where we handed out clothes food and gave spiritual counseling.”

Plans are to develop affordable housing with micro home, that are larger than miniature homes, for residents who are making minimum wage. The homes will be case managed and residents will be helped to find and keep jobs.

The mobile home park would be 50 to 60 400 square foot one bedroom units on the grounds.

The miniature homes would be a revenue stream for the Dream Center and it would be a lease-purchase where the residents would eventually own the home and build stability.

The campus would also have five dormitories for residents, a cafeteria, and educational building and a vocational building.

Conner said the project will be done in phases.

Phase I will be assessing the property. Beaumont Dream Center staff will have a 24 hours a day, seven days a week presence there at the beginning.

They will be inspecting buildings, getting quotes for needed repairs and volunteers cleaning up the property.

Building would be assessed for the ones that would be the most functional and opened one by one.

“During the first 30 days the property will look drastically different,” he said.

Phase II will consist of having the U.S. Postal Service assign each individual building on the campus its own zip code to better able to get grants.

Each building could be eligible for up to $2.4 million per address.

Applications will be taken during this time.

Phase III, churches and/or church groups can stay on the grounds and help with the work.

Beaumont Dream Center will also be trying to get solar panels and windmills to help with utilities cost.

For Phase IV, partnerships will be further developed such as providing medical and dental care for residents.

Conner speculated Lamar University could help with counseling and social work.

Some inmates could also be sent to the facility rather than to jail and save the state in considerable costs for detention.

Everett “Bo” Alfred, Precinct 4 Commissioner, said transportation has always been a major problem and if the Dream Center had a plan to get the residents there.

Conner said they will eventually get buses to transport the people there. Also, the organization has a history of cars being donated to the nonprofit 5013C organization. Residents may have the opportunity to have a car with no car note and only pay the auto insurance.

Michael “Shane” Sinegal, Precinct 3 Commissioner, asked what age groups would be at the facility. Conner said families, single adults and later minors once the state licensing from the department of health and human services is completed.

Sinegal also asked who would do security on the campus. Conner said private security could be hired and people would be vetted before they could become a resident.

Conner said they wouldn’t admit residents with “hardcore mental health problems;” only if the illness could be treated with medication.

Conner said through the work done by the LA Dream Center, the project at Al Price won’t be a new experiment.

“It’s something we’ve done before,” he said. “We have big dreams. We not just want to reach Beaumont, but the whole area.”

Al Price is a 54-acre campus. Beaumont Dream Center plans to eventually pay for the entire campus in time. They will also work with multiple agencies.

One such partner is Harbor House, according to Tom Jones with the organization. It started in Florida in 1989 to provide services to the at-risk populations of senior adults and troubled teens.

Conner told the Commissioners Jones has the experience in procuring grants.

Jones said there’s a great need for teens who are facing great challenges so they may stabilize and become strong and functional adults.

He added that government does as much as it can, but there are other ways social needs that can be met such as Harbor House does.

“We have 19 million living below the poverty line in this country. We want to do something different,” Jones said. “People can live well where they’re at instead of living in squalor.

“This will be very beneficial to the county because it will bring in million of dollars. The buildings will be turned into something and it will be a tremendous asset. We’re not asking a dime from the county. We’ll pay for the capital improvements. We have access to $25 million in funding to retrofit the facilities.”

Vilma Conner with the Beaumont Dream Center said this facility could provide structure to someone’s life, or for homeless families or a youth out of foster care.

“This could bring the community together and we could collaborate,” she said. “This facility will envision everything we want in the future. There are so many things we can do.”