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Homeless no more? Supportive housing project to break ground

May 30

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Friday, May 30, 2014  RssIcon

from The Star Press

One homeless person is one too many in the mind of Susan Buckingham. That is an opinion shared by countless others at Meridian Health Services, which is taking action to reduce the number in Delaware County.

Buckingham said she first explored the prospect of a supportive housing project in 2008, and through seven years of networking, that possibility will soon come to fruition. The long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for Walnut Commons will be at 10 this morning at the Wysor and Walnut streets, across from the Muncie Fieldhouse.

Walnut Commons will be the first supportive housing project in Delaware County.

“I am excited beyond belief,” said Buckingham, supervisor of homeless and vocational services for Meridian Health. “… It’s incredible.”

Buckingham said the idea is to first house the homeless and then offer them assistance in seeking independence and employment. The spring of 2015 is the target date for tenants to move into the 44-studio, one-bedroom apartment complex.

The $8.3 million three-story building will be 44,000 square feet with elevators to provide access for disabled tenants, an office, clinic space for on-site supportive services, laundry room, community room, computer areas, secured outdoor patio and green spaces. There will be a property management staff at the complex.

Daveri Development Group, Chicago, will develop, own and operate the complex. Meridian will provide all of the health services.

The Veterans Administration, Meridian and Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority will screen potential tenants, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will subsidize the rents.

HUD defines a homeless person as someone who sleeps in a place not meant for habitation, such as cars, parks and abandoned buildings, or sleeps in an emergency shelter as a primary residence.

Homeless veterans and individuals with disabilities will be prioritized as tenants at Walnut Commons. Buckingham said the last Point-in-Time count found six veterans out of the 152 homeless in Muncie.

“If there’s a veteran living in a tent out at the reservoir, that person would be a priority,” said Buckingham, who referenced to when President Barack Obama set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. Obama announced that goal in 2009. The 2013 Point-in-Time count revealed approximately 57,849 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2013 in the United States.

The Walnut Commons project overcame its share of derailments to potentially cut down on the number of homeless people in Delaware County.

Daveri initially proposed in 2012 that the apartment building be at South Walnut and 26th streets across from the Crestview Golf Course. The Chicago developer switched sites after neighbors on the south side opposed the project.

The Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals approved the new construction site at Wysor and Walnut streets. But the project stalled temporarily in 2012 when the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority rejected an application from the Chicago developer for low-income housing tax credits. Daveri reapplied the next year and the second time proved to be the charm as the IHCDA awarded the tax credits.

Mayor Dennis Tyler will speak at the groundbreaking ceremony this morning, and Buckingham will be there to soak in the long-awaited moment.

“It’s kind of humbling to know if you stick with something it can happen,” she said.

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