Basement arcadeTimes news video
The Guest House, an adult day center that serves patients with dementia, has been served an eviction notice by the Gainesville Housing Authority.
For the last 20 years, the center has operated rent-free out of a Housing and Urban Development building in Tower Heights apartments in Gainesville. The Gainesville Housing Authority is a state-created authority governed by the federally funded HUD program.
Dana Chapman, executive director of The Guest House, said the notice didn’t exactly come as a surprise.
The lease on the Guest House’s building expired in 2005. Since that time the organization has tried to negotiate a new lease that would allow it to stay in the building until it was able to gather funds and find a new facility.
Chapman has been the director for the last year and said the two previous directors also attempted to negotiate a new lease without success.
“All I can do is what I do, continue to work hard and do our best. It’s never been our intention to sit around and not pay rent,” Chapman said.
The nonprofit has been making significant strides in the last few months toward finding a new building and is currently working out the details of leasing a property.
Chapman said she’s optimistic that an agreement will be made with a new landlord in the next few weeks.
Lydia Sartain, the attorney representing The Guest House, said she has been in regular contact with the housing authority and it was her understanding it was satisfied with the organization’s relocation progress.
She said the authority did alert the nonprofit of its intention to file the notice but she was under the impression it was merely a formality.
“It’s very disappointing because the housing authority and The Guest House (have) enjoyed a very good relationship over the years,” Sartain said. “The Guest House provides a very important service for their clients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have this service.”
She said the situation is not unlike other notices where residents find their belongings out on the street.
“It’s my hope they do not really mean for that because that would cause The Guest House to have to close because they do not have alternative resources available to them at this time,” Sartain said.
John Gram, an attorney representing the authority, said the decision to file the notice came as a result of pressure from HUD, whose financial support of the program has been reduced.
“It’s not something they would like. But they would also like the opportunity to be paid fair market rent, too,” Gram said. “They don’t get rent for this space. The original arrangement was for in-kind trades, but that was 20 years ago and that never happened.”
Gram said the authority has made several attempts over the last two years to negotiate terms of a lease that would allow the nonprofit more time but all offers have been rejected.
Once the nonprofit has left the facility, the authority plans to use the building as office space and as a community center for Tower Heights apartment residents.
Gram said the authority has made several offers to the center that would involve sharing the facility with the Tower Heights residents and sharing some office space with the authority.
“But for whatever reason they don’t want to deal with us. It’s been very unpleasant,” Gram said.
Chapman said the offer was rejected because The Guest House is a medical program that cares for older adults with dementia and other health problems and by allowing anyone from the community to enter the building, it risks exposing the guests to diseases. The program is funded partially through Medicaid, which requires medical tests proving any person who spends time inside the building is clear of all communicable diseases.
“Our counteroffer to that was anyone is welcome to come to the program if they qualify. If we don’t have a TB test, chest X-ray and background check on everyone that comes here, that wouldn’t work because Medicaid would close us down,” Chapman said.
Chapman said she understands the authority’s position and has been working diligently to negotiate a new lease that would involve paying rent and utilities.
“We would have been happy to pay some rent to them but they didn’t want that. They wouldn’t ever send us a lease,” Chapman said.
A public hearing will be scheduled in December in Hall County Magistrate Court to determine the amount of time the nonprofit has to leave the property.
“I’m just hopeful that the good people of the housing authority will work with the folks at The Guest House and they’ll be able to provide services and be given a reasonable amount of time,” Sartain said.