‘The difference is night and day’: Development to help homeless reopens

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. — We’re beginning to see the impacts $2.2 million in state grants is making to reduce homelessness in Virginia. Virginia Supportive Housing reopened its flagship affordable apartment building after a major renovation, done in part because of this grant money.

“It’s hard to explain because you have so much more than you had before,” Robert Clark, one of the residents of the Virginia Supportive Housing’s New Clay House, said. “The difference is night and day.” 

Clark moved into the New Clay House almost five years ago. A lot has changed since then. Soon after moving to Virginia from New York City, Clark became homeless. 

“I didn’t want to be the one sleeping under bridges and stuff like that,” he explained.

But because of medical problems, Clark knew he needed help and connected with Virginia Supportive Housing. 

Clark says finding a place to live is the first step to bettering yourself. 

“You can prosper from that, you can grow from there,” he explained. “If you don’t have a place to stay that’s the foundation of life right there – having a roof over your head.” 

The building Clark calls home has changed a lot too. It originally opened in 1992 as one of the first affordable housing units to help the formerly homeless in Virginia. Initially, there were 47 small studios, with shared showers and a community kitchen. 

“Thirty years ago, it was groundbreaking,” Virginia Supportive Housing Executive Director Allison Bogdanović said. “Now, after 16 other communities, we get to come full circle and put the best practices that we’ve learned.” 

On Tuesday, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours to show donors, supporters as well as state and locals officials around the upgraded facility. It now has 80 units, each with its own bathroom and full kitchen, as well as a recreation room. 

The renovations overall cost roughly $19 million. Virginia Supportive Housing also received a $100,000 grant last month from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund for the project. This was one of many programs recently getting support from the state. Gov. Ralph Northam announced last month 30 other projects around Virginia also received Homeless Reduction Grants to help reduce homelessness.

According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, nearly 6,000 people were homeless in Virginia in January 2018. Since 2010, homelessness in Virginia has gone down by 34%, and homelessness among families has decreased by 44%. Preliminary numbers from the non-profit Homeward show 559 people were homeless in Richmond this January, which is down by about 8% from the year before. 

For residents like Clark, getting a roof over his head also helped him find a new family in Richmond. 

“You’ll find people going through the same struggles that you’re going through,” he said. 

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