Volunteers of America is announcing more housing opportunities in Rochester for people who are homeless.
The VOA expects seven new supportive housing units at Cooper Union to be ready by 2021. The building, on State Street in downtown Rochester, is currently home to 44 such apartments.
Tenants will receive rental assistance and extensive case management support. Rent will be 30% of their income. If the tenant does not have any income, rent will be free.
Lynn Sullivan is president of Volunteers of America Upstate New York. She said that housing is the first step to helping people become self-sufficient.
“The other steps to that are really making sure they have the right supportive services, helping them find jobs, helping them find training, making sure they have food on the table every night," she said.
Sullivan said that the organization’s housing initiative is part of a larger goal to combat economic disparity.
“Our focus since the VOA’s formation was really on eliminating poverty," she said. "And unfortunately there’s far too much poverty not only around the United States but also the Rochester community.”
Steve Ruger is a veteran who lives in the Cooper Union Building. Ruger says he was working on U.S. Air Force aircraft for 13 years while stationed in Saudi Arabia.
When he returned to the U.S. though, he said he wound up homeless and struggling with substance abuse for about ten months before he found housing through the VOA.
“You see some of these people out on the street, they had a life at one point somewhere, you know? And you would think, ‘Oh they’re just a bunch of bums. They’ve always been,'" he said. "Oh buddy you better start looking back ‘cause, you know, some of them were somebody at one time.”
The project is receiving $1.25 million dollars from the state, and a $60,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation. Homeless veterans will receive first priority on housing units as they become available.