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Vacant homes at Perry Point to be turned into housing for homeless veterans

A developer should be selected soon for an enhanced-use lease program at the Perry Point VA Medical Center campus that would house local homeless veterans.

"The Village," unused property at the VA, will be turned into alcohol and drug-free housing units for veterans with the goal of improving their quality of life and decreasing the number of homeless veterans in Maryland. The percentage of homes to be used by Cecil County vets as opposed to others from around the state is yet to be determined.

The project, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs website, will be a "newly renovated 50-bed domiciliary care program" that will "rehabilitate homeless Veterans through counseling, job assistance and home placement."

"This initiative will significantly support our efforts to eliminate Veteran homelessness and improve the quality of life for veterans," said Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in a press release. "We have a moral obligation to ensure that veterans and their families have access to affordable housing and medical services that will help them get back on their feet."

Sixty vacant homes in "The Village" at Perry Point will be renovated, with 44 of those to be occupied by homeless veterans or veterans who are at risk, as well as their families, according to the press release. The AmeriCorps program, a tenant organization at Perry Point, will use the other 16 houses as dormitories. All of these homes will serve the VA Maryland Health Care System's Homeless Veterans Program.

The houses will be out-leased, said Nikki Blount, project director and realty specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"The VA will serve as, for lack of a better term, landlord," Blount said. The selected developer will be the lessee and responsible for financing, renovating and managing the entire community

While the priority for the housing will go toward Cecil County veterans, anyone within the VA Health Care System network can be referred there as the medical center isn't "set up to reflect county boundaries," Blount said. This includes the two locations in Baltimore.

Furthermore, the housing can't be limited to only veterans.

"The people that were interested in [the] project, the developers, would go away and not finance [it]," Blount said, adding that it would be akin to obtaining a residential mortgage on the terms that only veterans could live in the house afterward. "That would limit the bids to financing," she said.

A developer has been recommended to Shinseki, who has final say over who is chosen. Blount says the deputy secretary has seen the recommendation and the department is just waiting for the decision. How long before a developer is selected for the project, Blount couldn't say.

"Sometimes it's immediately, sometimes it's three weeks, sometimes it's less," she said, adding that things can change quickly. Once construction begins, which all depends on the developer's timeline, the project will take about a year to complete, according to the VA's press release.

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