NORFOLK, VA. - Lots of cities talk about regional cooperation, but Virginia Supportive Housing (VSH) was able to make that idea a reality with Gosnold Apartments, a single-room occupancy (SRO) development here.

Three cities contributed funding to the 60-room development, which renovated a set of three dilapidated warehouses that had formerly served as RC Cola bottling and distribution sites. Plus, the regional office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agreed to allow the project to use Sec. 8 rental vouchers from three communities in one location.

“It was sort of out of the box, but they were willing to work with us on it,” said Candice Streett, VSH’s deputy director of housing, of the regional HUD officials, whom she praised for their flexibility.

One of the elements that persuaded officials in Virginia Beach and Portsmouth to commit their HOME and Community Development Block Grant resources to the Gosnold project was a pledge from VSH to eventually build similar SRO projects in their cities. The day Gosnold Apartments held its grand opening, the mayor of Virginia Beach announced that her city had voted the night before to put $1.3 million toward an SRO there. That development, Cloverleaf Apartments, is scheduled to open in October. SROs are also planned in Portsmouth and Chesapeake.

As the first permanent supportivehousing development for homeless single adults in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region, Gosnold Apartments fills a severe need. One local study found that more than 1,100 people are homeless on any given night in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth. To help residents integrate back into society, Gosnold provides social services, including two on-site social workers.

The development, which includes meeting and community rooms, laundry facilities, a computer room, a fitness room, and two gated courtyards, was also designed to contribute to community revitalization efforts. It was sited between a residential area and a commercial corridor, and at the edge of an industrial area. The developers added sidewalks and streetscape improvements as part of the project; neighbors have responded with improvements to their own properties.

Norfolk citizens supported the project with contributions to an Adopt-ARoom campaign, and raised $180,000 for furniture, computers, and a handicappedaccessible van for the property.

In addition to contributions from the three cities that were involved, the state threw in a $500,000 HOME loan to help finance the development, and Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., contributed $3.6 million in low-income housing tax credit equity.

Said Streett, “This project would not have happened had it not been for great partnerships.”