Housing for Homeless Veterans – Some History and Discussion

Just trying to put the Veteran’s Housing into perspective.

The concept of focusing some of our efforts on the niche housing needs of our veterans was laid out as part of our affordable housing strategy in January of 2015 (Liberty Village Houses 60 Homeless Long Island Vets). I had heard about many shortcomings in what the Veteran’s Administration and housing programs were being able to meet. I put out there at that time, that the town should focus some of its affordable housing efforts on this need.

During the course of 2015 a local motel was purchased out of foreclosure. I had many discussions with a number of potential buyers as to what could be done with the property. Ultimately, it was acquired by new owners who approached me with the idea of converting the motel into 24 efficiency housing units targeted at the needs of veterans. About the same time, the Housing Assistance Corporation also approached the town about the idea of addressing this same housing need. We worked on this concept for several months, the site was on Route 28, close to the Dennis Port Village Center, and on a public transportation route. As discussions proceeded over the summer of 2015 the price tag climbed. The potential acquisition of the site, given the need for major renovation, put the project out of reach. It also would have involved extending the useful life of an already tired building.

We moved on from that site and focused on a duplex near Route 134 in South Dennis that had been banked owned for nearly a decade. The cost of acquiring this site would have been half what the motel would have cost. It already had four bedrooms, and with a bit of work could have been modified to add an additional bedroom. At this point we started to learn more about the “Homeless not Hopeless” housing model, which serves transitioning homeless to society. The model includes an appointed “leader” of the house, a sobriety pledge, and availability of counseling services. Selectman Wayne Bergeron also started to reach out to Cape veterans groups to gauge the need for veterans housing. While anecdotally we knew there was a need, we were looking for some solid numbers. While we were doing our homework, this property was placed under agreement by the bank.

That led us to option number 3, finding a town owned parcel near a village setting and on a main route with sidewalks that was available for general municipal purposes. I started with looking at Route 28 and the southern portion of Route 134 as these roads were served by regular route public transit service. Then I looked to areas that were in short walking distance of these bus routes, but not directly on these main roads. I came up empty. The search then expanded to looking at areas adjacent to other commercial centers. At this point I found 1341 Route 134. The site is within 700 feet of the nearest adjacent business, and 1,200 feet of the heart of the Route 6A business district. There is a sidewalk present on Route 134, albeit on the opposite side of the road. And, while not on a fixed regular route transit line, it can be served by the CCRTA Dial-a-Ride service.

At this point Sweetser Engineering has surveyed the property and conducted perc test to ensure that it could accommodate five bedrooms. McPhee Associates, a long-time Dennis builder, and nearby business owner, is undertaking the design of the house. Starboard Side Landscaping will undertake the landscape design. He has been asked to create a setting that provides for the privacy of both the residents of this home as well as for the neighbors.

In the end, we want this property to be something that blends in and does not attract attention. We have been assured that Dennis veterans would have preference. The residents will be working with case managers, and all will be required to be drug and alcohol free. Many will be over age 50, veterans of Desert Storm 1, the Vietnam War and the Korean War.

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