Hospitality Hub - INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO ADDRESS SIDEWALK-LEVEL HOMELESSNESS
HOSPITALITY HUB SHARES VISION FOR COMPREHENSIVE, INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO ADDRESS SIDEWALK-LEVEL HOMELESSNESS
Public-private partnership seeds expansion of Hospitality Hub’s model through new campus, first barrierfree
emergency women’s shelter and homeless plaza, and scaled outreach + intake operations
On April 25, 2019, a joint resolution was presented among both the Memphis City Council and Shelby
County Commission to open an emergency women’s shelter and implement a comprehensive, proven plan
to effectively end sidewalk-level homelessness by relocating and expanding the Hospitality Hub (“the
The former City of Memphis Public Service Inspection Station at 501 Washington Avenue is slated to
become the Hub’s robust future campus as a centralized point of entry and model of care for homeless
individuals in Memphis.
“This vision for a safe space and resource will bring ‘hospitality’ to a new level of meaning that, with public
and private dollars, can become one of greatest assets to advancing homelessness issues in Memphis,” said
Kemp Conrad, Memphis City Council Chairman.
Founded in 2007 and currently housed at 82 N. Second Street, the Hub welcomes homeless men and
women seven days a week, accessing the root of each guest’s homelessness and providing customized
care, resources, or referrals in partnership with a larger network of services offered to the homeless
throughout the city.
“We work hard every day at City Hall to improve the quality of life for all Memphians,” Mayor Jim Strickland
said. “Since taking office, this has been a top priority, and I challenged my team to work to find an answer.
Homelessness is a community issue—and this is a community solution.”
Through the Hub’s committed full-time staff and dozens of volunteers, some of whom were formerly
homeless, free services from computer and phone usage to birth certificate/driver’s license acquisition and
counseling are available daily. In 2018, the Hub welcomed 1,591 newly homeless individuals, provided over
one thousand shelter vouchers, and helped 546 men and women track down their birth certificates, 417 of
which acquired a state ID. Inaccessibility to a state ID is cited among homeless populations as a top barrier
to services, including government benefits, affordable housing, hospital care, job search, and food stamp
Hospitality Hub’s 2018 intake data, digitally captured by the Hub’s Director of Intake Umeki Jones, reveals
588 homeless women currently living in Memphis, representing 37% of Memphis’ recorded homeless
population, 23% of whom were with children or pregnant. Today, only twenty-two emergency beds are
available for homeless women in the city limits, representing a mere 6% of total beds available to the
homeless, while 94% of total beds are reserved for men.
“A barrier-free facility for homeless women in our community does not exist, and it is unacceptable,” said
Memphis City Council Chairman Kemp Conrad.
Existing services and dynamic program evolutions under the Hub have yielded data-driven demand for a
shared vision to address sidewalk-level homelessness in context of the greater framework of Downtown
Memphis’ and the greater city’s momentum.
“We’re experiencing an unmatched synergy between intake and outreach efforts at the Hub,” said Kelcey
Johnson, operations director of the Hub, who joined the organization in 2011. “The role we’re playing is
critical, and the work we’re doing is achievable and, furthermore scalable. We’re ready to scale it.”
For example, Work Local, a City of Memphis Public Works and Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC)-
funded job access and blight reduction initiative launched in 2016, is a program collaboration under the
Hub that transports job-seeking panhandlers to cleanup sites 6 days/week. Workers are employed with
$10/hour wages, provided with food and additional Hub services and counseling as needed. In 2018, Work
Local is responsible for cleaning 87 tons of debris, hiring 2,180 client shifts, and compensating workers with
$109,000 in fair wages.
The Work Local model has led to further outreach efforts, including a golf cart outreach care pilot in which
Hub employees and volunteers drive the streets of Downtown Memphis to meet and simply offer humanto-
human support to a homeless man or woman. Led by the Hub’s Darrius “Mak” Clayton, the value-based,
tailored approach has been so singlehandedly successful, yielding an average of 3.6 new homeless male
and female weekly visitors to the Hub and thus prompting two additional golf carts, to be funded by the
DMC and MMDC, to double outreach.
In partnership with the DMC’s Blue Suede Brigade, MMDC Ambassadors, and five Memphis Police
Department precincts, the HUB’s street-level outreach will triple in 2019 and extend its footprint from the
riverfront to Cleveland Street.
“We at the Downtown Memphis Commission work daily to develop and foster a Downtown for everyone,”
said DMC President and CEO Jennifer Oswalt. “The Hub’s on-the-ground work helps create opportunities
and pathways out of homelessness for some of our city’s most vulnerable. We believe this work will lead to
a more welcoming Downtown for all.”
Future plans for the Hub encompass that the City of Memphis would lease its Inspection Center space to
the Hospitality Hub, where an $8 million capital project will transform an unoccupied building into a
campus of three components to further its mission and innovated model to provide individuals with
resources to begin their journey from homelessness.
“We’ve raised over $5.5 million in our fundraising efforts through generous private funds,” said Kelcey
Johnson. “Operational commitments from our City and County leadership would equip us to not only
initiate operations this effort, but also to sustain operations toward a solution.”
Above an expanded Hospitality Hub resource center, a second-floor, 30-bed emergency women’s shelter
will include secure check-in, private bedrooms, amenities for showers, laundry and beauty, an elevated
common area and patio.
In addition, an outdoor day plaza, created in partnership with Youngblood Studio, will include shade
structures and seating, lighting and canopies, art and play structures, a community garden, and
performance stage. The HUB plans to program the space with music, food, and the arts, bridging the
homeless community to a human-focused, open-door Downtown experience. The outside space will be
staffed with security to ensure safety of all citizens and will serve as a barrier-free place of respite and
services for those experiencing street level homelessness. The facility will serve as a cooling and warming
center for the City and County during extreme weather conditions, and the facility will serve as a
consolidated point of service delivery for volunteers, the faith community, and other non-profits that desire
to serve the currently homeless population.
The scalable capital project would begin this year with the outdoor day plaza development at 501
Washington and continues in 2020 and 2021 with capital improvements to the future Hub space and
The Hospitality Hub has requested the City and County to split operating costs for the future campus
beginning in FY 2019. Contributions from Memphis and Shelby County are dependent upon private sources
providing $5 million for the overhaul and improvements to the City’s contribution of the former Vehicle
Inspection Station, thus comprising a true private-public partnership.
The City of Memphis already provides $375,000 ($200,000 from City Council grants and $150,000
through Work Local), and would provide an additional $275,000 in FY 2019 budget, $275,000 in the FY
2020 Budget ($250,000 of which would be through the City Council’s First Annual Community Impact
Fund, $50,000 from the DMC, an additional $200,000 in FY 2021 for a total of $550,000. The DMC would
also contribute $50,000 in FY 2019 and FY 2020.
Shelby County would allocate and appropriate $250,000 in FY 2019 budget, $375,000 in FY 2020 budget
and $650,000 in FY 2021 budget.
It is the intent that both governments would provide a total of $1.2 million, split per the 2021 Budget going
forward, to support future ongoing operations of the Hospitality Hub at 501 Washington Avenue.
The Memphis City Council and Shelby County Commission full meetings, both scheduled for the first week
of May, will vote upon the joint resolution for 2019 and 2020 funding allocations to make the Hospitality
Hub’s future campus a reality.
“The Shelby County Board of Commissioners are committed to find results driven approaches to address
street level homelessness. The work that Hospitality Hub is doing is an innovative approach to help
address this epidemic at its root cause,” said Shelby County Commission Chairman Van Turner. “As a
body, we are charged with providing tangible supports to our most vulnerable citizens and I look forward
to working with my colleagues to invest in this worthy endeavor.”
“In the end, this comes down to making homelessness more human,” said Hospitality Hub’s Mak Clayton.
“This is about our neighbors, our community. We are treating others as we would like to be treated.”