Knox News Sentinel – Some of Tennessee’s top politicians stood in full view of the cameras to celebrate the forthcoming Dogan-Gaither Flats, the future home for formerly incarcerated men returning to Knoxville.

In typical fashion, Josh Smith, the man who envisioned the project and is investing $3.8 million to make it happen, stood back and to the side.

“It’s emotional because I don’t deserve to be here,” Smith said Friday. He shared his experiences re-entering society after prison 18 years ago, from begging to get a minimum wage job to struggling to find a place for his family to live.

“Those consequences hold so many back from every really being able to see or experience any true success in life,” Smith said.

Now a multimillionaire, Smith purchased the historic Dogan-Gaither Motor Court property in the Magnolia Warehouse District in 2020 for $500,000. The redevelopment of 211 Jessamine St. will take about a year to complete.

At Dogan-Gaither Flats, ex-offenders will live in 16 one-bedroom apartments for at least one year and participate in counseling, work placement, skills training, housing consultation and accountability measures.

Nashville-based prison ministry Men of Valor will lease the building and manage the programming. It owns and operates a similar 90-person facility in Middle Tennessee.

“We’re not going to have a fence or gates or things like that,” Smith said. “These people are already our neighbors. And so I hope that it feels like home to them and it gives them a comfortable transition.”

Smith, now a national prison reform advocate, says a safe and supportive housing situation is just one way to reduce the state’s recidivism rate.

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