Highland Church of Christ’s “housing first” initiative will turn the abandoned St. Ann’s Hospital into a permanent residence for the homeless.
The church gave funds totaling $100,000 to CitySquare, a Dallas-based nonprofit, to purchase the property on 1350 Cypress St. Part of the church’s “Restore Abilene” initiative, St. Ann’s will be accessible to homeless people without extra requirements, including to have a job or stop drinking. Ben Siburt, executive minister at Highland, said the project may take 18-24 months to complete.
“The first thing you do for people is get them a home,” Siburt said.
The apartments will consist of 30-40 single-occupant efficiencies. All residents will have the opportunity to receive social services.
Highland’s Restore Abilene initiative focuses on local issues including homelessness, poverty and education. The church began fundraising for the housing program three years ago, with many congregation members making monthly pledges towards the fund. Siburt said the congregation showed overwhelming excitement about the initiative.
“We think caring for those who don’t have a place to stay is part of the Jesus story,” Siburt said. “In the margins of society is where Jesus hangs out.”
In the next three months the church will apply to rezone the property and will work on finding a local contractor to do renovations. Siburt said the church hopes the property will eventually become self-sustaining as residents of the apartments become able to pay rent through jobs or government funding.
St. Ann’s opened in 1940 as a clinic and closed in 1968 for financial reasons, according to the Abilene Reporter News.