July 9, 2003 – The territory's veterans affairs director, Justin Harrigan, told senators on Wednesday that he favors the creation of a "one-stop" multiservice agency for veterans that would include the government's program for home ownership.
At present, Harrigan said, all he can do is refer veterans seeking homes to the Housing Parks and Recreation Department, which administers the veterans' housing program. But he said some veterans feel that the department does not appreciate their particular needs.
"Veterans like to be served by veterans," he said, according to a release from the Legislature. "They understand what each other is going through."
Harrigan's testimony came at a hearing on St. Croix of the Senate Housing Parks and Recreation Committee. Sen. Emmett Hansen II, the committee chair, called the meeting to take testimony on the V.I. veterans home program and the availability of land for such homes..
Ira Hobson, commissioner of Housing Parks and Recreation, said his department is working to convert 30.5 acres of land in Estate Hope on St. Croix and about 25 acres in Estate Contant on St. Thomas to use for veterans' home ownership. He said that because of the steep terrain, another $350,000 is needed to get the St. Croix land ready for sale to veterans.
Hansen and Harrigan agreed that the veterans' home ownership program should be transferred to the Veterans Affairs Office to better serve its intended constituency.
Hobson said that if the program is transferred without providing for additional resources, the existing administrative problems will simply be transferred, too.
If adequate funding is not available, Hansen said, a liaison officer between Harrigan's office and Hobson's department might be an appropriate alternative.
According to the release, Hansen also said more unused government should be made available for home ownership.
Committee members present were Sens. Hansen, Louis Hill, Luther Renee and Usie Richards. Sens. David Jones and Celestino White were absent. Also present was Michael Liu, U.S. Housing and Urban Development undersecretary.
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