Private shelter for homeless vets to add permanent support housing

Private shelter for homeless vets to add permanent support housing

Raven's Outreach Center for Homeless Veterans—the only private, nonprofit shelter for veterans in the state, according to the developer—has plans to nearly triple in size with the addition of permanent support housing on Scenic Highway, says Brian Cox of Red Door Development.

The shelter was started by owners Dorothy and Andrew Whitener about 10 years ago and currently has a 50-unit residential dormitory facility and administrative building at 1913 North St. with kitchen, class and church service space to help homeless veterans get on their feet. However, veterans are only allowed to stay in the dorms—which maintain a 98% occupancy rate—for two years. The permanent support housing addition, which includes three 20-unit apartment buildings totaling roughly 55,000 square feet, will provide veterans with a transitional state from dependency to home ownership, Cox says.

"They're going to receive a VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] voucher, which is simply a Section 8 housing voucher that's geared towards military veterans," he explains. "It allows them to live independently and transition into the permanent workforce."

The 60 one-bedroom, one-bath apartments will be located at 749 and 759 Scenic Highway—adjacent to Raven's existing facilities, which total 30,000 square feet. Each unit will be approximately 768 square feet and will include granite countertops in the kitchen and bathroom and a private patio. Following the permanent support housing stage, Cox says, Raven's will help the veterans become actual homeowners.

"[Raven's] would help them to build houses that are within their price affordability," he says. "The process takes them from a state of homelessness to a state of permanent housing and ultimately to a homeowner's state."

While Cox expects the project to cost between $2 million and $2.5 million, he says the Whiteners aren't using any federal grants, tax credits or loans to fund the project. "They're using their own money to do this," he says, adding that the owners didn't want the project to get delayed waiting for funding assistance.

Cox says construction on the addition could begin as early as August, depending on the permit process. He expects it to take between six and eight months to build.

Cox, a retail appraiser and Baton Rouge native who recently returned from living in Atlanta and started Red Door Development, says he's done a lot of projects around Baton Rouge, but nothing of this size.

"This is a great opportunity for me as well, because this is the largest project I've done," he says. "It's a win-win for both of us, essentially."

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