Iconic Detroit Bell Building gets 2nd chance, so do its new residents

NSO Bell Building program aims to get homeless off streets of Detroit, into sustainable lifestyles

DETROITIt was an iconic sign for drivers on the Lodge Freeway in Detroit.

For decades, they saw a huge message about the Yellow Pages on the old Michigan Bell Building on Oakman Boulevard. The sign was removed last November, as the building was rehabilitated for a new purpose.

A few weeks ago, the Neighborhood Service Organization began moving 155 homeless people into their own individual apartments.

Shane Hardemon, 35, proudly checks his mailbox.

"It feels like a gift of God having your own address," he said.

To qualify for the program, individuals must be homeless, and experiencing addiction, mental issues, or physical disabilities. They have access to counselors in the building, which will also serve as NSO's Detroit headquarters.

"It's permanent housing, not transitional," said NSO President and CEO Sheilah Clay. "They don't have to worry about abuse being out on the street. They can now focus on getting their life straight and getting clean and taking care of their mental health needs with the help of my staff in the building."

Each tenant is expected to pay 1/3 of his or her rent. Clay has visited similar apartments around the country.

"I have talked to people who moved into these programs. It absolutely works," she said.

The 155 units will be filled by November. The NSO says the waiting list has already reached 320 people.

Hardemon says he loves being able to watch TV, listen to music and cook in his own home.

"This is a second chance and I'm gonna take it like it's my best friend," he said.

For more information visit the program's website at www.nso-mi.org. View the NSO room wish list here.

-- Neighborhood Service Organization, NSO Bell Building, Detroit