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HomeNewsLocal newsVIHA Introduces Services to Housing Community with Bright Paths Programs

VIHA Introduces Services to Housing Community with Bright Paths Programs

While the territory’s housing communities are being rebuilt after the 2017 storms, the V.I. Housing Authority is adding a slate of services through the Bright Paths program to help families achieve healthy and productive lives.

Bright Paths was created in 2020 and put into effect in June 2022, Emmanuella Perez-Cassius, assistant director of the Resident Wellness and Empowerment Department, told the Source.

“We’re meeting humans on a human level,” Perez-Cassius said.

Evangelina Perez-Cassius, assistant director of Resident Wellness and Empowerment, will administer the Bright Paths program for the V.I. Housing Authority. (Susan Ellis photo)

As residents move into renovated housing units, their needs will be assessed to determine how to best help the family and its members move forward toward their goals as healthy, happy individuals.

The goals of Bright Paths include income and health equality, educational and vocational wellness, physical and emotional wellness, housing stability, economic mobility, social and spiritual wellness, and self-sufficiency. Residents will have input into designing the programs.

Renovation construction for the Walter I.M. Hodge housing community on St. Croix began in June 2022. (Source file photo)

According to VIHA’s Bright Paths fact sheet, the goal is that “Community residents have the confidence and knowledge required to help shape their academic and employment futures while increasing their capacity to make better decisions regarding their health and improve their ability to secure the resources that are vital for good physical and mental health.”

Bright Paths’ first step is to evaluate residents and then put together programs to help the entire community. Job training, financial management, computer training, childcare, emotional health and substance abuse are examples of programs to help family members.

VIHA anticipates it will take between 90-120 days to develop and begin programs.

Each housing community will have a resident services coordinator to monitor and report progress to the VIHA Resident Wellness Department monthly.

Resident councils will organize events and activities and communicate information from the Housing Authority. For example, the councils can help residents create community gardens, arrange onsite childcare and establish safety programs such as a neighborhood watch.

The council consists of elected leaseholders, at least 18 years old and current with their rent. The council has a president, vice president, secretary, assistant secretary and treasurer. The council members will be trained on Roberts Rules of Order, council responsibilities, HUD and VIHA guidelines, financial management and how to conduct meetings. They also will learn about strategic planning, conflict resolution and working together.

VIHA will provide a meeting space on the community’s premises and funding up to $25 a month per housing unit for expenses.

Financing for the program begins with the contractor who rebuilds the housing community and receives a $500 federal tax credit for each unit. The builder starts a trust that helps fund the programs and services every year.

Walter I.M. Hodge housing community on St. Croix was built in 1971 and was heavily damaged by the 2017 hurricanes. The rebuild will include four additional units, bringing the total number of residences to 252. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in June 2022 for the renovation and with luck, the residents could be the first to experience the Bright Paths program.

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