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Downtown apartments set for $2.7M renovation as affordable housing for mentally ill

Tulsa World - 4/21/2018

The Altamont Apartments is a safe haven from homelessness for Frank Horn, so temporary shifts to other units inside to make way for a $2.7 million renovation is no bother compared to what he endured for nine years on Tulsa's streets.

"I love it here," said Horn, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. "I thank God I'm not out there nearly freezing to death, homeless."

The Mental Health Association Oklahoma's 1930s-era Altamont Apartments, which sit on the southern edge of downtown at 12 E. 12th St., will undergo a $2.7 million renovation starting this month, made possible by public and private funding.

Altamont features 24-hour on-site staffing for homeless adults experiencing serious mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders. There are short-term, transitional and long-term options, along with services, activities and on-site meals.

Greg Shinn, MHAOK's chief housing officer and associate director, said the project is an investment for some of Tulsa's most vulnerable citizens, which in turn is good for the taxpayers, the city and the community's quality of life.

"This really represents equal access to safe, decent and affordable housing for everyone, all Tulsans," Shinn said. "We need to be able to provide that for everybody that lives in our community. So this really should be a model and an example for what we can do for people who are priced out of the market."

The four-story brick building will gain its first elevator, allowing upper-floor access to people with mobility impairments. It will be fitted with historically appropriate windows, along with renovated bathrooms and kitchenettes. There also will be central air, electrical and mechanical upgrades and a sprinkler system.

The work on Altamont will finish no later than January.

Horn, who has lived at the apartments for a decade, recalled how he never knew where his next meal would come from, where he would go or what he would do while living on the streets. The 64-year-old is "overwhelmed" seeing the Altamont's improvements over time.

"It gets better and better," Horn said. "I'm totally amazed at what's going on."

Of the 28 tenants notified in January of the renovation, 20 have been temporarily relocated in the building. The other eight have been temporarily relocated to other MHAOK housing. The association helped all tenants move and paid relocation costs.

All tenants who want to return to the building are guaranteed a unit.

The association said it spoke with each tenant to discuss specific needs and issues regarding the move and had meetings with family and service providers. MHAOK's goal is to ensure an easy transition for tenants to prevent disruption to their mental and physical health services.

The city of Tulsa provided the project $972,000 in federal funds earmarked for affordable housing. The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency provided nearly $1 million also using federal funds set aside for housing for extremely low-income people.

The rest of the cost, about $750,000, is covered by MHAOK through private funds it raised for the project.

MHAOK acquired the property in 2004. There will be space for 39 residents after the project concludes.


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