The Booneville City Council approved a plan to start proceedings to allow a portion of the old hospital to be leased.
The council, on Eddie Gossett’s motion, made the decision after a presentation by Jeremy Smith of Turning Point Ministries.
Smith is proposing his organization utilize the northern portion of the west wing of the city owned building as an rehabilitation facility.
Smith said Turning Point has been operating a home in Booneville for about a year but the home the organization is currently using has been sold.
"It’s a Christian men’s transitional home where we take guys in who want to change their lives," said Smith. "Train them up in the ways of the Lord. What we’re doing is taking them to church and teaching them how to get up and pray.
"Devotions during the day, different Bible studies at night. I go to Covenant Family Worship Center and we take them there. I’ve got a leader that is with them 24 hours a day who is in close contact with me."
People currently in the program are nearing the end and are "about ready to go to work and put their money back in the town, become productive members of society."
"These are not people that have a tremendous police record," Booneville mayor Jerry Wilkins questioned Smith. "These are people that need a little shove to help them keep going. They’re ready to go."
Smith answered, "sure. There’s one guy who has been in (the program) for about a year and he’s helping out. Another guy has been there about four months and he’s just doing what he needs to do.
"The system has failed them. I know they’ve made their choices, but they’ve (also) made the choice to come into the home," said Smith. "We’re just trying to show them the way."
Smith said he knows the program works because "I came out of a home like this myself and I just believe that these guys deserve a chance. It’s a win-win situation for all of us because they are going to be here anyway so they might as well be taught the ways of the Lord because that’s the only way they’re going to have a chance to make it in life.
"They’ve tried everything else."
To prepare the facility, Smith said, he would like to partition the west — newest — wing. Smith also said he has electricians, carpenters, plumbers and other professionals at his disposal to accomplish the task.
Smith said the program, which comes at no cost, at least not while in the program, takes a year to complete. He said he would never envision more than 10 being enrolled at any time.
Wilkins said the lease, which city attorney Johnny Williams will be preparing, would have to include a release for any liability and that the building would be leased as is.
"We’re going to have to learn from you what you’re planning on doing, write some bid specifications in that general format and we have to make it available to anybody," said Williams. "And if your bid comes in and the council wants to accept it then (the plan can proceed)."
The rehabilitation idea is the third different possibility for the old hospital. Previous ideas have included an in-patient psychiatric ward and another was an out-patient geriatric psychiatric unit.
The portion of the facility in which Turning Point is interested was asbestos renovated in preparation for use as a psychiatric facility but water damage ruined tiles in a portion of the wing and continued financial woes prevented the project from getting off the ground.