Detroit— City officials have unveiled a $6.5 million permanent support housing development that will serve homeless veterans and residents as Detroit touts a 15 percent drop in homelessness in the last year.

The development, located at the St. Rita Apartments on Owen Street, is set to open in September with 26 units subsidized through the state’s low income housing tax credit program.

Homeless veterans will have first preference for the units, officials say.

The new housing project is part of the city’s effort to reduce homelessness with a “Housing First” approach that provides both permanent housing and support services instead of temporary shelter. In 2017, Detroit added 143 permanent supportive housing units and plans to add another 300 units in the next five years, according to the city.

The Homeless Action Network Detroit and the Detroit Continuum of Care have partnered with the city to develop housing for the homeless and offer services such as mental health care, substance abuse help and job resources.

Funding sources for the St. Rita project include grants and $1.3 million in federal Housing and Urban Development funds that the city allocated.

Tasha Gray, executive director of the Homeless Action Network Detroit, said the city has had high retention rates for residents living in permanent supportive housing.

“We are really focused on getting people situated, getting them housed and addressing whatever needs they have once they are in their home,” said Gray. “These are folks who are very vulnerable but we are seeing that if we place them in housing and give them the support that they need they are actually remaining in housing.”

Officials say they collected homeless data during a yearly Point-in-Time (PIT) count of people who were homeless on one night in Detroit. The 2018 PIT count revealed that 1,769 people were homeless in Detroit, down 15 percent from last year when the count was 2,078, officials say.

“This sustained reduction in the size of our homeless population is an encouraging sign and suggests that as the city comes back, conditions are improving for our most vulnerable residents,” said Arthur Jemison, director of housing and revitalization for Detroit. “But there’s still more work to be done. We are going to continue our strategy of moving away from temporary shelter and toward permanent supportive housing to lift more Detroiters out of homelessness.”

Curtis Smith, housing director for Central City Integrated Health and chair of the Board of Directors for the Detroit Continuum of Care, said the St. Rita Apartments building was in disrepair and contractors are doing a complete overhaul.

Units will have tile floors, new appliances and internet wiring and the building’s “historical elegance” will be maintained, Smith said.

“It’s also important that we build some of the nicest housing that anyone will want to live in,” Smith said. “I’m excited because when folks have a nice place to live, when we make these significant capital investments in neighborhoods, I think that it’s a win-win scenario.”



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