New program will provide housing for homeless vets

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ST. THOMAS - A resolution passed by the V.I. Housing Authority board Wednesday will make way for the territory to participate in a program to help homeless veterans obtain free housing and critical services.

V.I. Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham said the territory's Housing Choice Voucher Program - formerly Section 8 - received such a high rating on its 2014 report card from U.S. Housing and Urban Development that the local agency became eligible for several new programs.

One of the new programs is the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Voucher program, which provides rental assistance to veterans and their families along with clinical services from the VA. The goal of the program is to get homeless veterans reintegrated into their communities by giving them support and financial assistance needed to gain independence.

The resolution passed by the board Wednesday adds language to the Housing Choice Voucher Program Administrative Plan to include the new program for veterans.

HUD will provide about $94,472 for 12 veteran vouchers for one year, along with about $12,000 to cover the costs of administering the program. Graham said a VA case worker will be hired on St. Thomas, and the program will begin there.

"We'll start on St. Thomas, and we hope to expand the VA vouchers to St. Croix as well," Graham said.

To qualify for the program, a veteran must meet income requirements and not be a registered sex offender or have a family member living in the household who is.

If a veteran in the program dies, the family can retain the voucher and continue to receive rental assistance.

The Housing Authority expects to start receiving referrals for the new program soon and begin issuing housing vouchers in September.

Board members Luis Sylvester, George Blackhall, Daphne Edwards, Collette Jones, Noreen Michael and Human Services Commissioner Christopher Finch approved the resolution. Member Adrienne Williams was absent.

Ralph deChabert Place

Graham reported to the board that the Housing Authority is moving ahead on the demolition of the Ralph deChabert housing community on St. Croix.

The demolition is funded by a $4 million grant from HUD, and the Housing Authority has one year to obligate the money and two years to spend it, Graham said.

He has split the project into two phases. The first phase will be the architectural and engineering contract to prepare the specifications for the demolition. That $65,000 contract has been awarded to Creative Housing Solutions, Graham said.

Graham said the specifications should be complete within 60 days, at which point the authority can put the demolition contract out to bid.

"We expect to bring you the contract for approval as a Christmas present," Graham said.

ADA compliance

Graham informed the board that a HUD team from Puerto Rico is in the territory making a site visit to inspect the public housing facilities for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

When the inspection is complete, a report will be provided to the board, he said.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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