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Hearing Seeking Solutions Sparsely Attended

May 16, 2005 –– St. John needs a trade school or some way to teach high school drop outs useful trades, said two of the four people who spoke Monday at the hearing to assess community needs called by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
"There is nothing for them to do," St. John resident Joan Thomas said, talking about 16 to 20 year olds.
Clarence Scipio, who heads the senior citizen program headquartered at St. Ursula's Episcopal Church, said the trade school would be for high school and beyond.
Alvis Christian, who head the John's Folly Learning Institute, said that there is a big need for services in the Bordeaux, Coral Bay, Mandahl, and John's Folly areas, all located at St. John's eastern end.
The third person to testify at the hearing at the Legislature building on St. John was Ivy Moses. She spoke about the growing need for HIV/AIDS services on St. John. She heads Helping Others in a Positive Environment, usually called HOPE.
Moses said that the organization's branch office located at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center is fast outgrowing its space.
HOPE has requested $25,000 for its outreach program under the 2005 Community Development Block Grant program administered by Planning. Its request comes under the St. Thomas listing.
St. Ursula's asked for $34,980 to run its computer training program.
John's Folly Learning Institute requested $250,000 for its program.
The V.I. Resource Center for Disabled, which did not testify at the meeting, asked for $17,200 to run its after-school program for disabled people.
Laurence Joshua, who serves as the director of Planning's block grant program, said the program is changing its funding format. Previously, Planning took applications and held hearings on block grants every year.
He said organizations now need to plan their block grant funding needs for the next five years. However, he said there will be an opportunity to update applications every year.
Planning, in conjunction with the V.I. Housing Finance Authority and with community input, now must come up with a consolidated plan to address housing needs, homelessness and community development. The U.S. Housing and Urban Development program, which funds the block grant and other programs in the territory, has mandated this approach.
Moses asked Joshua to hold another hearing since this one was sparsely attended, but Joshua said a tight time frame for getting the draft and subsequently the final document to HUD precluded more hearings. He said the draft will be available at the end of May, with the final plan ready for review July 15.
He said organizations have received forms to fill out so their needs will be included in the consolidated plan. The forms can be obtained at Planning's Community Development Block grant offices on St. Thomas and St. Croix, at the Housing Finance Authority offices on St. Thomas and St. John, at the Administrator's office on St. John, and at the Enid M. Baa Library on St. Thomas and the Athalie McFarlane Petersen Library on St. Croix.
Joshua said information gleaned from the public hearings as well as that included on the forms will be the basis for grants.
The hearings continue Tuesday at the Lockhart Elementary School auditorium.
The hearings move to St. Croix on Wednesday. It will be held at the Education Department Curriculum Center in Kingshill.
Both hearings begin at 5:30 p.m.
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