Low-Income Housing Project Earns Pasco County National Honors

PASCO COUNTY, FL — For the second year in a row, the National Community Development Association has recognized Pasco County Community Development as a winner of the 2022 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award for the county's collaboration on the Rosalie Rendu Residences.

The new residences in New Port Richey provide a safe, clean and permanent place for the homeless and those living with a disability.

The former multifamily apartment complex was purchased by St. Vincent de Paul CARES, which renovated the complex with the help of grant funds from the county, opening it in Aug. 5.

“We’re honored to receive this award and grateful for the partnership with St. Vincent de Paul CARES on this project,” said Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick. “Rosalie Rendu Residences will have a major impact on the lives of those who need a safe and reliable place to live.”

The Audrey Nelson Award recognizes exemplary local projects and programs funded through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant program and other HUD Office of Community Planning and Development funding.

Rosalie Rendu Residences include eight renovated efficiencies and two-bedroom units for the homeless, and if geared to residents who are at risk of becoming homeless.

A veteran, Jay S., declining to give his last name to protect his privacy, was the first resident of Rosalie Rendu Residences.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all that’s been done for me. It has had a profound impact on me,” said Jay. “I hope one day to have an impact on other’s lives like you’ve had on mine.”

Jay said he grew up in a “normal family” but, after falling on hard times he wound up homeless, living in the woods for more than three months.

Rosalie Rendu Residences is a type of affording housing known as "supportive housing."

It's not enough to simply give people with mental health problems, physical disabilities and other situations leading to homelessness a roof over their heads, said Marcy Esbjerg, director of Pasco County Community Development.

Supportive housing includes services to help people obtain jobs and eventually become independent enough to strike out on their own, enabling another person needing help to move in.

Esbjerg said the county generally partners with a nonprofit to provide finance supportive housing.

In this case, the Pasco Board of County Commissioners contributed Community Development Block Grant and coronavirus funds from the federal government to help finance the residences and the rest of the funding came from the state and private donors.

Last year, the national association awarded Pasco County Community Development the 2021 Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award for its collaboration on another supportive housing project, The Vincent House Project.

This 10,000-square-foot housing development in Hudson provides homes and services for people suffering severe mental illness, helping them to become productive members of the community.

The county once again contributed Community Development Block Grant funding for the project and donated 10 acres of land for 10,000-square-foot Vincent House, which also received funding from the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, state and private donors.

The Vincent House offers people with mental illness housing, training, employment, education, along with access to medical and psychiatric services.

These two housing developments are among a number that have been built or are planned in Pasco County for low-income elderly, the homeless and the disabled.

Esbjerg said the county is set to begin work on Magnolia Oaks in New Port Richey in February with an anticipated completion in June 2023.

Magnolia Oaks is a 77-unit town home development with 40 units for low-income veterans and their families and 37 units for nondisabled elderly residents.

Located on 9.8 acres at 7338 Massachusetts Blvd., across from Magnolia Park, the development will feature units with one, two and three bedrooms along with a swimming pool and community building that will offer support services including a Veterans Administration caseworker on site.

The county is providing $2.1 million toward the $16.4 million development. The remainder will come from HUD's Home Investment Partnership Program.

“This is a big boon for our community and it will go a long way in combating homelessness,” said David Lambert, chairman of the Pasco County Housing Authority.

County Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey agreed.

“How quickly can we start doing another one?" she asked. "This is what we need. We need this badly.”

In recent years, U.S. 19 through Pasco County has been plagued by an increasing number of homeless residents, he noted, and there's a great need for low-income housing in Pasco County.

Esbjerg said Pasco County Community Development has a number of other projects in the pipeline including a 38-unit development to be built near The Vincent House in partnership with the nonprofit Vincent Academy Adventure Coast, which specializes in assisting people with a mental illness with social and vocational skills to help them become employed.

A large percentage of the homeless population is people who are mentally ill and unable to hold down a job without specialized training, she said.

St. Vincent de Paul CARES, affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, has been partnering with Pasco County since 2018 to combat homelessness in the county in which 42 percent of the residents struggle to make ends meet.

The nonprofit's first project was Ozanam Village, a 30-unit housing community on Tonetta Way in New Port Richey for residents with special needs, physical challenges as well as adults who have aged out of the foster care system, those recoving from alcohol addiction and domestic violence victims.

Ozanam Village has since been followed by Ozanam Village II in 2020, featuring eight one-bedroom units and 22 two-bedroom units, and Ozanam Village III in May 2021, consisting of 15 one-bedroom and 15-two bedroom units

Lambert said that with the Housing Authority’s available units 99 percent full at all times and there's a waiting list of people needing low income housing.

"More low-income housing is desperately needed,” Lambert said, adding that Pasco County has become one of the top-performing housing authorities in the country due to funding partnerships.

The housing authority currently manages 12 low-income housing communities in Pasco County, including six public housing projects, one Section 8 housing community, three funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program and two affordable housing complexes, offering more than 2,000 units.

Without the partnerships the Community Development has built with nonprofits to supplement the Housing Authority's public housing, Lambert said the homeless problems in the county would be dire.

In addition to St. Vincent de Paul CARES, Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco and Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco.

Since its founding in 1994, Habitat for Humanity in East and Central Pasco has built more than 153 homes in Dade City, Zephyrhills, Land O Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Lachoochee with 11 more under construction.

Habitat of Pinellas and West Pasco has built 728 homes in West Pasco and Pinellas counties.

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This article originally appeared on the New Port Richey Patch