The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday awarded the Territory $570,662 in grants to help the homeless, marking the first time in recent years that the Virgin Islands has secured all available funding under HUD’s Continuum of Care grant program.
"What we have done is broken the glass ceiling – come into our own – as far as federal assistance to help in the plight of the homeless," said Tom Bolt, Chairman of the Virgin Isalnds Continuum of Care on the Homeless, a coalition of local agencies, public and private, that work with people who are homeless.
"Now, we have gotten the maximum amount of money the feds would allocate to us under the formula," he said.
The Continuum of Care funding announced Thursday includes $318,467 for two new local programs and $168,424 to continue an existing supportive housing program. HUD also renewed the territory’s $82,771 emergency shelter grant – money earmarked to help fund local shelters and related social services and homeless prevention services.
The new funding was awarded to the V.I. Human Services Department. It includes:
– $67,200 for a new leasing assistance program for the homeless. Human Services Commissioner Chris Finch said the department would likely subcontract with a nonprofit to administer the program.
– $252,267 for Hill Street Homes. The money will be used to rehabilitate an existing building – the dilapidated Maisonette Apartments building – on Hill Street in Christiansted into apartments for the homeless. Once renovated, the building will be used for a "Housing First" program, Finch said.
Housing First programs – founded on the premise that housing is a basic human right – move homeless people immediately off the streets and into apartments, and then surround them with services to meet their needs, give them stability, and help them make it a success.
Finch said Human Services will handle the construction and renovation portion of developing Hill Street Homes. Once the building is ready for residents, the department may opt to subcontract to a local nonprofit to run the program.
The awards announced Thursday also include a $168,424 grant renewal to the Methodist Training & Outreach Center for its supportive housing program.
Bolt said he was "overjoyed" with news of the award. Community organizations and government agencies pulled together and worked "really hard" to ensure that the territory got its full competitive Continuum of Care grant award this year, he said.
"It’s just great that the community has come together to help," Bolt said. "It’s tremendous."
Finch said that the V.I. Continuum of Care obtained technical assistance in grant writing to prepare the competitive grant proposals that were awarded on Thursday.
Additional funding to help prevent homelessness will be available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which President Barack Obama signed into law this week.