“The ideal community is one in which no one needs a cot in a church basement,” explained City Councilor Dave Norris, who pushed for better solutions to the city’s homeless problem during his time as mayor.
Kathy Talley, deputy executive director of Virginia Supportive Housing, takes questions during a press preview of The Crossings, a single room efficiency apartment complex developed in partnership by the City of Charlottesville and VSH as a solution to chronic homelessness. The Crossings could open its doors for business as early as March 5. (Photo by John Robinson)
Working in partnership with the state-level nonprofit Virginia Supportive Housing, the city has made a large step toward getting its chronic homeless population off the streets with the construction of The Crossings, a single-room occupancy, permanent housing facility at Fourth Street and Preston Avenue that may open its doors as early as next week.
The three-story building, still smelling of fresh paint, is made up of 60 efficiency apartment units, each featuring a bedroom/ living area, full bathroom, and a small kitchen. Half of the units are subsidized for long-term homeless single adults, particularly those with disabilities, their costs supported by project-based Section 8 vouchers, which are built-in, federal subsidies that stay with the units and cover the gaps between what a tenant can pay and what it actually costs to maintain and run them. The City of Charlottesville allocated 21 of the vouchers for The Crossings, while Albemarle County provide nine.
The 30 remaining units are not subsidized, but will be rented as affordable housing to single adults with low incomes who need an apartment close to Downtown. While the rental units are yet to be filled, the Section 8 units have all been assigned to men and women who have been homeless for years and are hoping to begin the next phase of their lives.
One of The Crossings’ first residents, who called himself “Bill” and said he preferred to remain anonymous, found out last week that his final application had been approved after spending the last five years on the street.
“My heart did a little flutter,” he said with a smile.
While his application process was “fairly smooth,” Bill said that he did not allow himself to get excited as he took part in multiple interviews and filed his paperwork.
“Everyone was tired of being approved to be approved,” he said.
While the idea of finding and keeping a job to pay the bills is daunting, Bill is most excited for the privacy and security of living at The Crossings.
“It’ll be nice to plug my phone in to charge, go to the bathroom, and come back and see it’s still there,” he said.
Bill prides himself on his “ability to learn to adapt,” and hopes that, five years from now, he will be “long gone from The Crossings,” supporting himself and freeing up that space so that others can use the same resources.
In addition to a permanent roof over their heads every day, The Crossings will also provide supportive services for the residents. Erin Briggs is one of two case managers employed by Virginia Supportive Housing, who will be on-site five days a week to assist the tenants with everything from cooking and cleaning to job hunting and financial literacy.
“No one has to use our services,” Briggs said. “But they know that we’re here.”