“It was like somebody took a ton of weight off my back,” said resident Clifford Rowe, who served in the 101st Airborne Division at the Bay of Pigs and later experienced homelessness for twelve years. “To find out I had a home coming, that was wonderful.”
Rowe was among a fortunate few to join U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to open the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence – an apartment building with 60 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans.
The 124-unit mixed income building is among the first of its kind in the country to have full-time, onsite VA case managers. It has been touted as an architecturally striking structure that will also offer 64 affordable and low-income units to District residents.
For Rowe, the access to proper housing was counted as a blessing. In the 1980s, “the bottom fell out,” he told a group of people gathered at the Jan. 12 opening. Rowe was evicted, turned to drugs, lost most of his possessions, including gifts from Elvis Presley, and lived in his car. Now he has come full circle, living less than a mile from the house where he grew up and learned to play music. His apartment includes all new furniture and a few of his longtime belongings, including the Les Paul guitar he used to back up The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Located at 1005 North Capitol Street, NE; the building is a collaboration between Community Solutions, a national non-profit organization, and McCormack Baron Salazar, a leading property development firm.
The Conway Residence represents a new, more strategic approach to aligning affordable housing development with the District’s broader efforts to end veteran homelessness. Veteran tenants were assessed using a research-backed survey, and apartments were offered only to those recommended for permanent supportive housing using that tool, in conjunction with clinical judgment from the VA staff. The approach reflects a new tactic used to aligning housing development with a data-driven system for identifying, prioritizing and housing the most vulnerable veterans.
“I’m proud to announce to you today, that since beginning the push to end Veteran homelessness in the District four years ago nearly 1,800 Veterans have been housed, with 764 Veterans housed in 2015 and 463 placed into permanent housing in 2016,” Bowser said at the opening. The city contributed $13.4 million – part of the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing subsidy – to pay for the building. The D.C. Housing authority is also expected to contribute $3.8 million.