NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Community offices in Tidewater Gardens are open to help residents prepare for future relocation.
The public housing complex will be the first of three demolished as part of a revitalization project for the St. Paul’s area.
Earlier this week, representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development met with city officials and toured the areas.
Norfolk is one of four finalists for HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative. If selected, the city could receive up to $30 million.
But last month, residents wrote to HUD telling them to keep their grant money.
At this week’s meeting, residents also protested outside demanding answers to questions about relocation and coming back to the community once it’s complete.
Project spokesperson Barbara Hamm Lee says they started People First and opened offices in the community to help educate residents.
“We’re doing whatever we can to get the word out to folks,” Hamm Lee said about the offices.
She says People First started back in August when 187 families were alerted that they would be a part of the first phase of people relocated.
The offices opened its doors on March 1. Hamm Lee says it will provide other resources like job training opportunities, financial advice, and other things that will help residents succeed once they relocate.
But, it will most importantly advise residents about relocation, which many have questions regarding.
Hamm Lee encourages them to stop by the offices.
“Whatever you do, ask the questions because we have nothing to hide. There’s no reason not to give correct information. There are people out there who just want to see this entire process disrupted and get residents caught up in the middle because someone’s in their ear giving them information and they’re already anxious,” she said.
Some of those concerns have to do with what happens when families need to relocate.
Hamm Lee says they have three options-moving permanently to another community, taking a voucher and permanently moving to another public housing community, or taking a voucher, temporarily moving to another community, and returning to St. Paul’s.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding that once you go and get a voucher, you can never come back. That’s absolutely not true,” she said.
The housing vouchers can also be used anywhere in the country.
Hamm Lee says residents will be notified at least 120 days before they need to move so they can find housing. If they run into difficulties, the deadlines will be extended and they will work with them to find affordable housing.
“No one will be evicted. No one will be kicked out. You will have to make a decision and you will have to move at some point because the building is coming down,” she said.
Hamm Lee says that if residents opt to return, they need to make it known when they are given the choice and they want to work with families to keep them in their beloved communities.
“People have lives here. They’ve built families here. They have relatives here. There’s a sense of community here. We want to make sure they move as successfully as possible and that they can continue to thrive within our community. We don’t want anyone to live our community if they don’t have to,” she said.
Hamm Lee says the project will take years to complete.
If you have any other questions, you can visit the People First Offices on Walke Street.
They are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additional hours will be added for residents who work during the day.
You can also call the hotline at 757-314-2000.