Academy looks at turning church building into home for homeless high school students

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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – A planned academy for high school students without a home may have a new home near an Owensboro church.

The Empowerment Academy and Third Baptist Church are looking at renovating a building where those students could stay.

The building along Allen Street is connected to Third Baptist was built in the early 1950s, and has been home to several church and community programs. There are now plans to turn it into a potential new home for a few dozen high schoolers without a home.

“At the time, the church it was quite large. It has a cornerstone that says ‘Educating a thousand or more,” said Gary Kirtley, who is a deacon at Third Baptist. He also says the building’s hallways and rooms aren’t as full as they once were.

“We do have a lot of space that we are not utilizing,” Kirtley says.

The Empowerment Academy is proposing renovating the educational building as a new home for homeless high school students. The Owensboro Historic Preservation Board approved its exterior design, but other details, including building access, a lease and other legal matters, aren’t finalized. During Thursday’s board meeting, academy officials say up to 35 people, including potential staff such as advisors, could live there, but no official capacity is set.

“Every community has a need of students who are indeed homeless. Every community. Owensboro is no different. We do have those. Our city and county schools have done a really good job of identifying those students who could really benefit from this program,” said Corey King, a member of the academy’s board.

Kirtley says the church is talking with its members and groups who currently use the building about its future. Planning was slowed down last year after the pandemic started.

“We’re to a point where we’re pretty excited about this space just really something that the location is good for them. The space is good for them as far as renovations and what they would like to do,” he said.

Both Kirtley and King say they’re at least several months away from getting all plans finalized and from any potential groundbreaking.

(This story was originally published on February 5, 2021)

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