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Housing for homeless veterans proposed

Helping veterans get on their feet

A proposed design for veteran housing in Tacoma. Photo courtesy Pierce Transit

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There's a project afoot in Tacoma that brings to mind the saying, "it takes a village," a proverb that usually refers to a community of individuals pitching in to help raise a child.  In the case of the as-yet-unnamed housing project proposed for veterans and their families struggling with homelessness, the proverb could be shifted to something like, "it takes civic and federal entities working together." 

That doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but there's a certain charm in a nonprofit agency reaching out to a transportation organization and the two conspiring to create a community hub for people who have served the country and community and fallen on hard times.

Robin Corak, executive director for the nonprofit community action agency Multi-Service Center (MSC), explains that the impetus for the housing project began around four or five years ago, before she came on board, as awareness of more and more homeless veterans surfaced.

Brainstorming led to an idea to create a housing complex modeled on the Compass Veterans Center in Renton, which offers transitional and long-term housing and services for veterans. MSC wanted to create a hub for veterans in Tacoma: they wanted services on site like a Department of Veterans Affairs office along with an employment office, on-site case managers and child advocates.

To house this center, they looked for land to use near transit locations in areas that could use some revitalization.  They happened upon a parcel of land near the Park & Ride Center at 72nd Ave. E. and Portland Ave., and sent in an unsolicited proposal to Pierce Transit to lease that land.  

Tacoma's proposed center, as yet unnamed, would provide up to 55 units of affordable housing to qualified veterans in the Pierce County area.  

Approval from Pierce Transit is required, and then funding for the project can begin.  Exact funding amounts will be known when the scope of the project (to include the exact number of units) is known.

The next concrete step to move the process forward will be for Pierce Transit staff to review the MSC proposal and make recommendations to its board, which could happen as early as the next board meeting Oct. 12.  But it doesn't stop there: Pierce Transit would also need the concurrence of the Federal Transit Administration, since federal funds will be involved and FTA would need to ensure riders are served.  And then there would be an additional public process, where the public could weigh in, before anything is finalized.

"It is still very early in the process, but we think the project sounds promising and are looking forward to seeing where it leads," said Pierce Transit Public Relations Officer Rebecca Japhet.

Curok suggests that the process could take about six years from start to finish, based on the length of time it will have taken a similar project in Federal Way that is slated to be completed in June 2016.

"Tacoma is harder to project," she added. "We just started the process."

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