In Virginia Beach, new start in life for veterans in new home
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — For a while now, Denene Butts has been driving by the new Bayside apartment building weekly, just to check on construction.
The Norfolk woman had never lived on her own before, and over the summer, filled out paperwork to be a tenant.
Butts wanted her own space. The 48-year-old Army veteran stayed with her mom, and for the past two years has been on disability.
Last week, she found out she'd gotten in, joining more than 30 other veterans selected to move into Cedar Grove Apartments, the first permanent rental housing complex in Hampton Roads for disabled and homeless veterans.
"This is going to give me a fresh start in life," Butts said.
Officials on Thursday celebrated the grand opening of the Cedar Grove Apartments with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, recognizing the veterans who will soon move in. The $6.6 million complex at 904 Broad Meadows Blvd. was developed by the Virginia Beach Community Development Corp. and the Southeastern Virginia Housing Corp.
"Americans take care of their own, and you are a fine example of that," Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, deputy commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said in a speech at the ceremony.
Developers said the complex fills a need in the community for affordable housing for low-income and disabled veterans. A January count of the homeless identified 312 veterans without homes in Hampton Roads, according to figures from the Hampton VA Medical Center.
Many veterans are drawn to Hampton Roads because of their service experience and the sizable military population in the area, Marti Chick-Ebey, homeless veteran coordinator at the Hampton VA, said in an email.
"Veterans enjoy the camaraderie of other veterans," she wrote. "A housing development exclusively for disabled veterans will have the strength of that camaraderie."
To qualify at Cedar Grove Apartments, residents' income must be less than 50 percent of the area median income of $73,300. Veterans cannot have a dishonorable discharge.
For rent, residents pay 30 percent of their adjusted gross income, and the rest is subsidized through rental vouchers, said Mary Kay Horoszewski, executive director of the Virginia Beach Community Development Corp.
"This is permanent, so they can stay as long as they want," Horoszewski said.
All units are currently full, and about 150 people are on a waiting list. Although immediate plans are not in the works, Horoszewski said she hopes to develop another complex for veterans in Hampton Roads in the future.
The building includes 32 fully-furnished, one- and two-bedroom apartments, a community lounge, fitness center and organic garden. Half of the units are fully handicapped-accessible, and three units are designed for residents with sensory impairments.
Veterans will receive case management when they first move in to ensure they are getting benefits and services they need, Horoszewski said.
Funding for the apartments came from federal, state, local and private sources. Through its Local HOME Program, the city contributed $450,000 to the project.
At Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, the regional coordinator of the Quilts of Valor Foundation presented quilts to the veterans, handing one to Cedar Grove resident Dan Hallock.
Hallock took the blanket in his hands and leaned toward the microphone.
"It's nice to have a home now instead of just a place to stay," he said.