HomePlate Apartments host community open house
HomePlate Apartments, a Housing First project for Nome’s chronically homeless, opened its doors and held three open houses on Tuesday November 14 for neighbors, investors and community members to tour the 15-unit project off Greg Kruschek Ave.
“We wanted to reassure the neighbors that this project is not going to hinder their neighborhood. Their children are still safe, and to talk about our program, the support behind it and why it’s successful,” said Rhonda Schneider, grants, contracts & awards specialist at the Nome Community Center.
Tenants were set to move in the following day, but Sunday’s storm and the continuing travel delays meant the fire alarm panel and installer, and the HUD inspector both were unable to arrive in Nome on time.
“We really wanted to meet the deadline but, NEST is open, they have a place to stay. Everybody’s safe and we’ll try for the 19th to move the first four [tenants] in,” Schneider said.
Schneider walked visitors through the new building pointing out the community room, laundry facility and “examination room” intended for health check-ups.
In early September 2022, the groundbreaking took place, piles were driven and construction began in May of this year.
“I just wanted to congratulate the contractors and you guys [NCC] for the oversight,” building inspector for the City of Nome Cliff McHenry said during the open house, “It’s very impressive work.”
Many organizations and businesses that contributed were represented at the open house including Bering Straits Native Corporation, Northrim Bank, Norton Sound Health Corporation and Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation.
Each of the 15 one-person units has its own bathroom, kitchen, seating area and bed.
Nome Community Center stocked the apartments with everything tenants will need to help them transition to the new living space such as kitchenware, toiletries and sheets.
A family will live on-site acting as apartment managers, making sure residents are compliant with rules, one being that no guests are allowed after 11 p.m.
The apartments are managed by the Nome Community Center and the project is set up to pay for its own operation and maintenance. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has a sponsor program that provides vouchers aiding in the cost of rent. Each apartment’s rent value is estimated at around $1,200 a month. Tenants are only required to contribute 30 percent of their income, the rest will be covered by HUD vouchers, Schneider said.
“If they get a PFD, they have to pay 30 percent of it. If they make $100, washing dishes at Golden China, they have to pay $30 of it,” Schneider said.
Nome Community Center Outreach Coordinator Janice Mixsooke deals with the onslaught of paperwork required to maintain HUD compliance. There is a strict schedule for rent payments and reporting resident’s income. Many residents are eligible for benefits they aren’t currently receiving and Mixsooke will help them apply for those as well.
If a tenant has no income the required monthly rent is $50, which will be covered by the Nome Community Center budget.
HomePlate is designed to bring people who are experiencing chronic homelessness in Nome into a housed situation. An individual must be unhoused for at least a period of 12 months consecutively or with breaks, over the span of three years to qualify as “chronically homeless.” An Alaska government database used by Nome Community Center identified the “most chronically homeless” and those who applied were chosen based on the list, Schneider said. Some residents are more ready than others so move-ins will occur in cycles.
Residents are allowed to have alcohol in the building because it is a “low to no barrier” housing project.
“What we’ve [NCC] experienced when we’ve housed other people in other apartments where they’re still drinking is they drink less,” Schneider explained to people on the tour.
Schneider said by December 31 all 15 residents will move into the fully furnished apartments.
There is no requirement to leave after a certain amount of time.
“It took so many people to make this happen, the journey has been amazing,” Schneider said.