MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A homeless shelter in Orange Mound had to close its doors after city officials said the building is not safe for occupancy but those who have been staying there, like Randy Henderson, now say they have nowhere to go.

“It hurt us to the bottom, to the bottom of my heart,” Henderson said. “Only thing we can do is sleep out here outside.”

The City of Memphis says over the last year they inspected the building and tried to work with the owner, a group called Juice Orange Mound, to fix multiple safety issues.

City officials say the shelter located on Park Avenue does not meet the requirements to be considered a shelter. The building does not have a working smoke detector or sprinkler system, working restrooms, running water, sleeping facilities that separate men from women and children, and does not provide three meals a day.

The City requested the owner of the shelter to complete some minimum safety standards for temporary occupancy through the winter months, but they say that didn’t happen. As a result, the owner of the shelter has been cited to court.

Britney Thornton runs Juice Orange Mound. She says some of the issues the city cited, like the smoke detector and no running water, have been fixed and she feels city officials should allow the shelter to stay open while the other problems are addressed, especially with icy weather coming later this week.

Thornton says the shelter was housing roughly 24 people at a time and claims there is no warming center in Orange Mound because the Orange Mound Community Center isn’t currently able to operate as one.

“A lot of people don’t want to leave Orange Mound. So, when you tell people to go to a warming center on the other part of town and they’ve never been there, people just aren’t going to do it,” Thornton said. “So, that pushes people back to, you know, we’ve seen people who’ve chosen to stay on the streets since we’ve closed down, to go into abandoned buildings. It just leaves people with less than ideal options.”

City officials say if the owner chooses to bring the building up to code, they will allow the building to reopen.

You can view the inspection reports here.

Thornton says her organization bought the building from an old clothing store in 2020 and converted it to a shelter prior to last year’s winter storm.