The name sounds like a gang.
Southside Clique is actually a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping former inmates on probation and parole get back on their feet.
In the past three years, the group has converted run-down Augusta homes into living space for the homeless.
But Southside's latest effort is much grander: transforming an aging former motel on Gordon Highway into a residence hall for hundreds of local men and women recently released from prison.
"It's really a matter of people helping people," said Janet Brown, a member of Southside Clique. "We want to give them enough time to get their lives together and put some money aside."
Workers are pressed to finish 50 of the 148 rooms in the next month so that the first residents can move in by Oct. 1. The remaining 98 rooms will open in waves later in the year.
The hope is that each of the rooms, which contain about 420 square feet, can have a television, bed, dresser, microwave, small refrigerator and air conditioning/heating unit so that residents will need to buy only a telephone.
Single women and parolees living with their families will probably be housed on the first floor of the building, while the upper level will be set aside for single men, according to Denise Dawson, who is in charge of the project. The family units are a little bigger than the basic single rooms, which have a bathroom and living/sleeping area.
The downstairs area also will have several meeting rooms and a large kitchen and dining area. The pool should open by spring.
Ms. Dawson said residents will live in the made-over motel for up to one year and will go through an on-site re-entry program that includes General Educational Development, job-training and life-skills classes and drug and alcohol counseling.
Eventually, the parolees and probationers will be hired to help in the kitchen and around the facility.
"It's designed to create jobs," Ms. Dawson said of the project. "We want to make the place almost completely self-sustaining."
The River Walk Manor Hotel shut down more than a year ago. Its owner for the past four months, Vinu Patel, set up an arrangement with Ms. Dawson under which Southside Clique has to pay him only $1 a month for 10 years for use of the facility; he is just waiting for Ms. Dawson to sign a contract to finalize the deal.
Residents will pay Southside a monthly fee based on income.
Kathy Ruddy, the director of the Augusta Parole Center, said she toured the building last month and has agreed to give the project a shot for her residents.
"Housing is a tremendous issue for a lot of our people," Ms. Ruddy said. "It's a great plan."
Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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