INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A homeless shelter is one step closer to tearing down one of its historic buildings to construct a larger facility – in an effort to add more space – thanks to a grant.
Camp Haven, a nonprofit organization, plans to remove one of its buildings located near the corner of Aviation Boulevard and U.S. 1. The historic building was formerly an art deco-style eatery known as Gordon’s Diner, the first building in Vero Beach with air conditioning, Camp Haven Executive Director Chuck Bradley said.
“We’ve outgrown our meeting and dining space needs. Some men are standing in meetings,” Camp Haven Board President Brian Korkus said. “The purpose for tearing down the building is to replace it with a new building that will allow us to shift our meetings, food storage, computer labs and program-related activities.”
On Oct. 18, Camp Haven received a $15,000 grant from the Business For A Better Indian River County Fund to help the shelter’s vision of building new facility on the south side of its campus. But, the shelter will need to raise more funds to make that goal happen.
Korkus said it will cost about $350,000 total to tear down the old building and construct a new one, which will be about 1,500 square feet. The current building is mainly being used for storage.
Korkus said the shelter will hold fundraisers and apply for grants from local foundations to go toward building costs.
“We intend to raise funds through grants and donations,” Korkus said. “We’re working toward it. We will aim to get the building removed within the next month.”
Korkus said the shelter has already hired a contractor and was working toward obtaining a building permit. Korkus said the current building is not hurricane-rated, has a damaged roof and inadequate plumbing.
“It’s not financially wise to renovate the current building,” Korkus said. “It’s just not worth trying to modernize the existing building.”
The campus, which first opened in 2014, has a horseshoe-shaped driveway. The office and a set of rooms are on the north side of the property, another set of rooms are on the east side and the old building on the south side.
Korkus said Camp Haven has 26 men staying at the facility. Korkus said three rooms at the shelter are currently being used for office space, storage and a computer lab.
The rooms will be available for six more men after everything is shifted over into the new building, Korkus said. The shelter offers different classes for men such as personal development, assistance with employment skills, psychological counseling, finances and more, Korkus said.
“When we first bring them in, they go into double occupancy rooms. Our goal is to get them employed within the first 30 days,” Korkus said. “As they progress, they move to the single residency rooms in the back. They do pay a low-rate rent the entire time they are here.”
Korkus said the men eventually move out when they raised enough money to live independently.
The center also has nightly meetings where facilitators try to instill a family community. The center serves daily meals to its residents and has food donated from churches and convenience stores.
“We help them get back to being productive community members,” Korkus said.