A former Tucson hotel has been transformed into a one-stop center for people experiencing homelessness.
The H.S. Lopez Family Foundation Center of Opportunity plans to open June 3 in what used to be a Radisson on 4550 S. Palo Verde Road. The center will offer 350 beds, 1,000 hot meals a day, workforce development, medical and dental services, a men’s rehabilitation center and much more.
“We help people move from homelessness to self-sufficiency,” said Victor Hightower, spokesperson for the Gospel Rescue Mission.
The center is a collaboration between the H.S. Lopez Family Foundation, Gospel Rescue Mission and La Frontera Arizona, as well as about 25 other local nonprofits and providers.
The main building preserves the ambiance of a hotel and includes a men’s emergency shelter, containing 150 beds in the 8,900-square-foot space that used to be the hotel’s grand ballroom.
When Radisson vacated the property, they left behind all the contents of the rooms and the kitchen equipment. The kitchen is built for 3,000 meals a day. The center will start by serving 1,000 hot meals a day, with room to grow.
Rather than serve meals buffet style, volunteers will provide table service for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There will also be soup, bread and fruit available at any time between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
The former hotel rooms have been converted into 51 casitas that each sleep four. They will be the living quarters for the Gospel Rescue Mission men’s addiction and alcohol recovery program, and for the women and children’s center, complete with a playroom.
Organizations, families and individuals donated between $5,000 to $7,000 each to renovate a casita, sometimes opting to renovate the room themselves.
The workforce development will be run by Pima County One Stop, Sullivan Jackson and Arizona at Work, and will provide services such as résumé help, GED classes, interview skills and work clothes.
There are also plans for La Frontera Arizona to provide a host of behavioral health services.
El Rio Health Center will run a medical and dental center. And representatives from the Department of Economic Security are on hand to help people apply for food stamps, health insurance and cash assistance.
“We’re bringing all these services under one roof to eliminate obstacles,” said Lisa Chastain, associate executive director for the Gospel Rescue Mission, adding that everyone who comes in will be treated with dignity and respect.
The center was founded by Humberto Lopez, a local business owner and philanthropist. Along with his wife, he formed H.S. Lopez Family Foundation in 2007 to provide for causes related to education, health and welfare.
“I want to give dignity to these people,” he said about people who will benefit from the center. “Some are treated worse than animals. I want to give them a nice place to go where they will have access to all the services they need to get back on their feet and reintegrate with society under one roof.”
The Gospel Rescue Mission had been looking for a new site for its men’s shelter for about a year when they got a call from Lopez saying he had purchased the 8-acre property, Chastain said.
They signed a 99-year lease with the H.S. Lopez Family Foundation, for $1 a year rent.
About $10 million has gone into the center so far and there are plans to invest another $10 million on future additions over the next year.
The additions will include five additional buildings to provide medical and dental services and workforce development, as well as a welcome center, a warehouse for donations and sorting and an administration building, which will also contain a gym, lounge and library for people staying at the shelter to use.
The additions will also include an outside area with ramadas and outdoor seating, shade structures, a playground, raised garden beds, a park and expanding outdoor seating beyond the cafeteria.
As well, La Frontera Arizona is converting the former Holiday Inn on the property into permanent low-income housing, set to open in a year-and-a-half with 100 units.
CEO of La Frontera Dan Ranieri says it will be beneficial for people in low-income permanent housing to access services at the center, especially the workforce development.
Other services in the space include a community space with games, a billiards table and a piano. As well, there will be a number of rooms not in use that will be offered out to local nonprofits to use for meetings or events free of charge.
There’s also a 156-seat theatre where there will be chapel services, classroom seminars and entertainment, like watching movies and sporting events.
The center is looking for hundreds of volunteers to do all kinds of things, such as check people in, serve food and handle clerical tasks. To volunteer, go to grmtucson.com/volunteer.