'We can't just get kicked out on the street:' Sevier Center residents wonder what future holds

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 15, 2018 at 12:00 AM

There was one thing on Chris Bowers’ and Tim Ollis’ minds as they chatted on the street corner Friday morning — where they would go when the John Sevier Center is sold and the residents are relocated.

Earlier Friday, the Johnson City Development Authority Board of Directors voted to enter into a contract to buy the building for $4.1 million. JCDA Board President Robert Williams said the authority plans to work with property managers from M&M Properties, developers and Housing and Urban Development in an effort to relocate the current residents to “safe, clean and affordable housing.”

Ollis, 62, and Bowers, 21, said they would prefer better living conditions, but they would still like to stay within walking distance of downtown amenities and places that provide services and food for the poor, such as Good Samaritan Ministries and the Melting Pot.

At the very least, the two residents said they hope they will have somewhere to stay after the center is closed.

“They’re going to have to move everybody before they do anything,” Bowers said.

“If they want to sell it, they will,” Ollis said. “But we can’t just get kicked out on the street.”

Bowers, who said he was homeless before he moved in the center two years ago, said he’s concerned about the possibility of “kicking out” many of the residents who are either physically disabled like Ollis, or are mentally disabled.

“There’s a bunch of people who are handicapped here. It’s one of the few government-assisted housing places that actually is wheelchair accessible,” he said.

Despite some problems with living standards, including past problems with bed bugs, Bowers said the center still currently serves as a place to stay for many who don’t have other options.

“About everybody that moves in here has been homeless,” he said.

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