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HomeNewsLocal newsHomeless Center, Youth Counseling Recommended for St. John HUD Funding

Homeless Center, Youth Counseling Recommended for St. John HUD Funding

<p>Two St. John community development programs proposed by Family Resource Center Inc. and St. John Community Foundation Inc. received their second public hearing Wednesday, bringing them a step closer to receiving grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.</p>
<p>Both programs received favorable recommendations by V.I. Housing Finance Authority staff following an earlier public hearing in April.</p>
<p>The Family Resource Center is proposing on-island youth and child counseling for victims of abuse and violent crime, and SJCF&rsquo;s proposal is a Cruz Bay day center for St. John&rsquo;s homeless. Both proposals are likely to receive funding from HUD&rsquo;s Community Development Block Grant following Wednesday&rsquo;s follow-up hearing.</p>
<p>Directors from both nonprofits offered testimony regarding their proposals at the Cruz Bay Legislature Annex, although few community members attended the hearing. Funds from CDBG, of which the territory&rsquo;s Fiscal Year 2016 allocation is an estimated $1,948,732, are often sub-granted to nonprofit agencies.</p>
<p>Housing Finance Authority staff received 52 proposals territorywide for 2016&rsquo;s CDBG funding, 18 of which have been recommended for award.</p>
<p>Projects funded by CDBG are required to meet one of the objectives of preventing or eliminating slums and blight, or addressing an urgent need primarily of benefit to low or moderate income communities.</p>
<p>The larger of the two CDBG funding recommendations VIFHA staff issued for St. John proposals was a sum of $43,000 for FRC&rsquo;s counseling services. Vivian St. Juste, FRC&rsquo;s executive director, said there is an unmet need for full-time child and youth counseling services on the island.</p>
<p>&ldquo;In our initial year of providing this St. John counseling program, 65 youth are anticipated,&rdquo; she said.</p>
<p>The free services are planned to be offered FRC&rsquo;s St. John office at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, primarily to youth ages 5 to 17 who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and other violent crimes.</p>
<p>&ldquo;The proposed project is necessary and appropriate for the St. John community and neighborhoods because there is a need for counseling to respond to the current referrals from schools, courts and the Department of Human Services,&rdquo; St. Juste said.</p>
<p>Previous CDBG funding helped provide similar counseling services for youth at FRC&rsquo;s St. Thomas office, although some clients had to commute from St. John, something the agency&rsquo;s latest proposal aims to fix.</p>
<p>Celia Kalousek, SJCF director, said her organization&rsquo;s proposal is the creation of a site where St. John&rsquo;s homeless can access phones and computers to make connections with potential employment, social and medical care providers, and other support networks.</p>
<p>Kalousek, whose master&rsquo;s degree thesis centered on the health and welfare needs of homeless adults on St. John, said the center&rsquo;s aim would be to improve the community’s public services relating to the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.</p>
<p>The day center would not offer overnight shelter but would provide one-on-one assistance, food, clothing, basic first aid supplies, toiletries and lockers in which to safely store belongings. The Lumberyard complex was the initial planned site for the center, but Kalousek said discussions are under way with St. John Administrator Camille Paris regarding an alternate site located between St. Ursula&rsquo;s Church and St. John Inn.</p>
<p>In 2015, SJCF coordinated and compiled a report that identified 189 unduplicated clients of St. John&rsquo;s temporary volunteer homeless services, mostly offered by the island&rsquo;s churches. According to the report, 75-80 individuals consistently required support throughout the year and approximately 30 would be considered chronically homeless by HUD definitions.</p>
<p>&ldquo;This St. John support center is important because most social service providers for the territory are headquartered in St. Thomas, and in some cases in St. Croix and Puerto Rico, and do not have an office on St. John. Our clients do not have the means to access these vital services in many cases,&rdquo; Kalousek said.</p>
<p>She said SJCF&rsquo;s initial idea was to keep the center open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but a more limited schedule may have to be considered in light of the fact that the $30,000 that has been recommended for the proposal is slightly less than half of what the foundation requested.</p>
<p>The final submission of VIHFA&rsquo;s 2016 action plan to HUD will occur in August.</p>
<p>Present at Wednesday&rsquo;s hearing were CDBG Program Director Antoinette Fleming, VIHFA Chief Financial Officer Daryl Griffith, VIHFA Federal Programs Director Janine Hector, and federal programs staff member Jennifer Jones.</p>

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