Rainbow Village to consolidate facilities in Duluth

DULUTH - The Duluth City Council on Monday unanimously approved rezoning for Rainbow Village Inc. to consolidate its facilities and expand its services to assist homeless families.

Rainbow Village provides families in domestic or economic crisis with transitional housing in a program that promotes self-sufficiency. Eight families are currently housed in two quadraplexes in Duluth. Rainbow Village's administrative offices and another residential campus are presently located at two sites in Norcross.

The program helps participants become contributing members of society, according to Joe Young, a member of the Rainbow Village Board of Directors.

"Rainbow Village has been serving Gwinnett County for over 15 years," Young told the council.

The rezoning allows Rainbow Village to locate all its facilities on the Duluth property, increase services to families who have fallen upon hard times, and serve as a catalyst for good development in the area, he said.

Rainbow Village Board Chairman Frank Rinker, Executive Director Nancy Yancey and Sondra Blue, a graduate of the program who now serves as director of the nonprofit organization's children and youth activities, also appeared before the council to support the rezoning request.

The rezoning of two parcels totaling 2.5 acres at 2208 Buford Highway and 3402 Fox St. behind the Proctor Square Shopping Center allows Rainbow Village to construct a 4,500-square-foot office and five six-unit residential buildings containing a total of 30 apartments next to the two quadraplexes. The council's action changed the property from multi-family residential and neighborhood commercial to a planned urban development.

The quadraplexes would be converted to activity centers that include a dining hall, child care center, after-school care program, adult life skills training classes, and recreation for Rainbow Village residents.

The property is located in the Buford Highway Corridor and Downtown Duluth overlay districts adopted recently by the council to promote quality development.

"We're excited about moving to Duluth and becoming part of the revitalization here," Yancey said.

Rainbow Village residents typically are temporarily homeless families who have encountered economic hardship. Often they are mothers with children fleeing domestic violence. Some are single fathers with children.

Parents participating in the program are required to be working or seeking a job, attend training sessions, pay rent and save money.

The Duluth Planning Commission at its Sept. 2 meeting recommended approval of the rezoning with conditions. A nearby homeowner appeared before the commission in opposition to the rezoning.

The Scott Hudgens Family Foundation has donated funds for purchase of the property in Duluth to Rainbow Village, which plans to conduct a fundraising campaign to build the new facilities, Young said. Construction is expected to start in the second quarter of 2009, he said. The foundation previously provided funds for Rainbow Village's existing residential campus in Duluth. Its other facilities are leased.

"I've seen lives turn over and over again at Rainbow Village and not just residents," commented Councilwoman Marsha Anderson Bomar. The program has had a positive effect on volunteers as well, she said.