Jonesboro hopes to create housing for homeless veterans

JONESBORO, Ark. — The city of Jonesboro and Crowley’s Ridge Development Council will be working together to try to create a “veterans village” for homeless military veterans.

Tiffney Calloway, Jonesboro’s director of community development, said Mayor Harold Perrin wants to pursue funding from the National Housing Trust Fund. The Arkansas Development Finance Authority will make $3 million from the trust fund available in early 2018, and housing for veterans will be a primary target.

“We’re going to partner with CRDC and several veteran organizations that are already established, such as Beck PRIDE,” Calloway said told The Jonesboro Sun .

Arkansas has 229,261 veterans, including 5,954 in Craighead County, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration. Statewide, it’s estimated that 456 are homeless.

“We’re wanting to provide a place for veterans who are either homeless or are near homelessness, where they can come in for a year — free rent for a whole year,” Calloway said. “There may be rent charged, but it’s going to a savings account for them.”

Calloway said she began work on the project a few weeks ago. The idea is to make safe and affordable housing available for veterans who have fallen on hard times.

Mental health, medical and other services will be provided for the residents.

“So it’s going to be a year-long (period) that teaches them those essential things, with the hope that they will go on to become self-sufficient,” Calloway said. “The mayor’s idea is to have these homes in a circle and to also have a central house in the middle that’s going to have a case manager, that’s going to have the mental health therapist as needed, but a central place where they can meet.”

The maximum amount available to any single project will be $1 million, the ADFA said in its allocation plan.

The money the finance authority is making available in early 2018 was actually allocated to the state in 2016.

Calloway said ADFA is expected to release the $3 million allocations for 2017 and 2018 next year.

“So that’s $9 million of funding that’s going to come available really soon,” Calloway said. “We have a compelling case.”

City officials haven’t identified a proposed location for a veterans village, but ADFA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development want them located near VA medical facilities, VA support services and urban areas where employers are more concentrated and more likely to offer jobs to veterans.

The scoring process for funding will penalize applicants who seek to locate the housing within a half-mile of a junk yard or salvage yard, wastewater treatment facility, electric utility substations, landfills, airports, pig or chicken farms, processing plants or industrial operations.