News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 29, 2013

Deming residents voice concerns

Facility to be closed, residents relocated to new complex

TERRE HAUTE — James Hehman, 69, has lived in a Deming Center apartment for 16 years and he’s happy there.

Reluctantly, he said he “probably will” move to the new Warren Village complex off North 25th Street when the Terre Haute Housing Authority opens that facility and closes the eight-story Deming Center, slated to occur late next year or early in 2015.

Hehman, and some others who attended a  meeting on Friday about the changes, have concerns about the safety of their new neighborhood.

Housing Authority executive director Jeff Stewart and consultant Sheryl Sharpe of Milestone Ventures met with Deming Center residents to provide information, answer questions and inform residents of their rights. The Tribune-Star and other media were not allowed to attend. Stewart said it was a private meeting with tenants and not a public meeting. Members of the Housing Authority board did not attend, Stewart said.

After the hour-long session at Deming Center, Stewart described the meeting as “fairly positive.” The change “isn’t going to be a perfect situation for every tenant, but it’s not a perfect situation in this building for every tenant now.”

 Deming Center is a low-income housing facility at Sixth and Cherry streets in downtown Terre Haute. The Terre Haute Housing Authority plans a $15 million renovation/addition project at the former Warren Elementary School, to be called Warren Village. The school closed in 2000.

The new facility will have 109 housing units, the same number of units as in Deming Center. The former school dates back to World War I but, as a residential property, is expected to feature larger, more modern rooms and amenities than Deming Center, which was constructed as a downtown hotel about the same time.

Stewart said that “coordinating a move of more than 100 residents will be a complex undertaking, so we are beginning to plan for the move early on to ensure that everyone is well informed along the way.”

Construction of Warren Village is expected to begin this fall and take about one year.

Deming Center residents receive a Section 8 federal rent subsidy tied to that location; that federal rent subsidy will be transferred to Warren Village when it opens, which means residents who move there will pay the same monthly rent they pay at Deming Center.

If residents choose to reside somewhere else, they lose that Section 8 subsidy, Sharpe explained.

Residents who choose not to go to Warren Village could apply to live in public housing, such as Dreiser Square or Garfield Towers, or they could apply for a Section 8 voucher program that works with private landlords.

According to the Housing Authority web site, the Section 8 waiting list is currently closed for new applicants.

There also is other subsidized housing in Terre Haute “that we don’t deal with,” Stewart said. Residents “have those choices.”

That’s why the discussion has begun with residents, Stewart said. The move is about 18 months away, and residents have time to consider the options that are best for them.

Residents are being surveyed about their housing and moving preferences. The Housing Authority would like to know within two weeks if residents plan to move to Warren Village, “but that doesn’t lock them in,” Stewart said. “It gives us an idea of what we’re looking at,” but residents can change their minds.

Another resident who attended the meeting, Ron Thorpe, 38, said some residents prefer the downtown location, where they have close access to fast-food restaurants, dollar discount stores and the Indiana State University campus.

“It won’t be as convenient to get to places at the new location,” he said.

Some are concerned about the safety of the new neighborhood, he said. At Deming Center, if a security issue arises, Terre Haute police and sometimes ISU police respond.

Thorpe said he doesn’t yet know if he will move to Warren Village.

Laura Sommers, 33, has lived at Deming Center for two years. In terms of the building structure, she believes the move will be a good one for residents; but geographically, she’s heard residents are concerned about having easy access to places they need to go.

It’s not a choice she has to make — she will be moving out of government-subsidized housing soon.

As far as access to stores and restaurants, Stewart suggests that at Warren Village, “I think they’ll be just as close or closer than they are now.” There will be a city bus stop located by the apartment complex, he said.

Warren Village is located on North 25th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.  Stores and restaurants at 25th and Wabash are about one-half mile away.

As far as security, Deming Center has on-site security, primarily in the evenings, and that will continue at the new site, Stewart said. Warren Village also will have video surveillance cameras throughout the building. “I think we’ll be able to take care of any security issues,” Stewart said.

According to the Housing Authority news release, its nonprofit affiliate, the Low Income Housing Development Corp. of Terre Haute, owns Deming Center.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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