72.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, March 26, 2023


May 6, 2004 – Some people who have had to call the streets of St. Thomas home will soon be able to open the door to a place of their own, thanks to the efforts of a local church-based social service agency.
A newly renovated, permanent residential facility in Estate Contant will provide single-room housing for eight individuals — men in one building and women in another. The shelter formally opened two weeks ago.
"As soon as we can get all of our leases worked out with Section 8 for the program, we will be able to get our tenants in there," Louise Petersen said earlier this week.
Petersen is executive director of the Methodist Training and Outreach Center of St. Thomas, which is operates the shelter. The Section 8 federal housing subsidy program provides rental assistance to qualifying tenants.
Development of the residence was made possible by $24,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding awarded to the Methodist center by the Planning and Natural Resources Department. Church agency personnel located an unoccupied building in Contant and reached an agreement with the off-island owners to utilize it. Renovations began in January.
Some of those who stand to benefit from the new facility are homeless people, including clients of Bethlehem House, a temporary-housing shelter run by Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands. Others, Petersen said, are young adults who have reached the age where they are no longer covered by the Human Services Department's foster care program.
Residents are chosen through an application process. According to a Catholic Charities official, people receiving temporary shelter at Bethlehem House are flocking to the Methodist Training and Outreach Center to file their applications.
"For the Methodist Outreach Center to come up with a shelter like this is a big step, and many of our clients are very impressed," Alvin Henley Sr. of Catholic Charities said on Thursday.
Henley, the Catholic agency's district program operations manager, said the new facility takes "a great strain off" of Bethlehem House residents and also of "the staff who is working here and helping them accomplish their goals."
Some of the people struggling to get away from homelessness can best be described as working poor, Henley said: people who have jobs but don't make enough to save the money needed for up-front deposits required to get into a rental unit.
Others are people whose homeless state stems from personal, medical and substance abuse problems. According to Petersen, residents of the new facility must remain drug free and alcohol free to maintain their residency. A property manager is on staff to make sure everyone follows the rules and to help solve any problems that might arise, she said.
"The individuals who are going there are not the chronic homeless that you see on the street," Petersen said. Rather, they are people who "are almost ready to be mainstreamed back into society and have gotten to the level where some of them are able to hold small jobs."
Through the Methodist Outreach Center, the clients can take advantage of a 10-year grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund subsidized housing.
Henley sees the new permanent residence as "a big step for my clients." Although Bethlehem House is intended as a temporary shelter, "we find some of our clients living here a little longer," he said.
Petersen said many Virgin Islanders don't know the extent of homelessness in the territory. This project and a similar project about to get under way on St. Croix represent a chance at a new life for many, she said.
Ironically, Section 8 subsidized rental housing has been making headlines in the national media this week because of charges that President Bush's proposed 2005 federal budget would severely cut funding for the program.

Back Talk

Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.