Piquette Square addresses the serious issue of homelessness among veterans in a way that no other facility in metro Detroit has done before. The new 150-unit apartment project near New Center provides permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans. The goal of Piquette Square is to create a welcoming environment that supports homeless veterans in their self-determination and growth by providing a full complement of counseling, treatment and community-reintegration services. Southwest Solutions developed the project and will own and manage it. Piquette is only the second project of its kind in Michigan and is one of the largest in the nation. Piquette Square puts Detroit at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to end homelessness among veterans. It opened in June 2010.
What is the Piquette Square Project? Piquette Square is a 150 unit, new construction apartment building in Detroit’s New Center area that offers long-term supportive housing to homeless veterans. It is one of just two long-term supportive housing programs for veterans in the state and one of the largest in the nation. It is located on the old Studebaker plant site one mile north of the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and nearby other veteran-serving programs. The goal is to enable chronically homeless veterans to achieve stability and begin to rebuild their lives. The building opened in June 2010, about six months after President Obama and VA Secretary Shinseki declared a campaign to end homelessness among veterans.
What makes us believe that this project will be more successful than others (like shelters) in keeping homeless veterans off the streets? Permanent supportive housing has proven to be a successful model in Detroit for wrapping an array of comprehensive services around disabled or needy populations to help them succeed in staying in housing and taking strides in mental illness recovery. Permanent supportive housing for veterans effectively breaks the tragic cycle from streets to shelters to emergency rooms and even jails. We are also encouraged by the outpouring of community support for Piquette Square, especially from veterans groups around the region.
What services will be provided for the veterans on site? Piquette fosters a warm, welcoming environment where tenants can choose from an array of mental health, rehabilitation, recreational and social programs to regain their footing in life. A dynamic calendar of regular classes, special events, and social programs fuels this vision, aided by Southwest Staff, partner program staff, interns and volunteers.
Why should the neighboring residents and businesses of Piquette welcome this project? The project will also contribute to the ongoing growth of the surrounding area. Piquette is located on the old Studebaker plant site that burned in 2005, leaving a contaminated and abandoned parcel between Midtown and New Center. Development of Piquette Square will help restore the vitality of the immediate neighborhood. More important to the neighborhood are the 150 men and women moving into the community. Southwest Solutions and our partners have learned that the journey from homelessness to recovery is never easy, but once on the path to recovery the veterans will become a positive force.
What do veterans’ service organizations think about the project? Here are just a few quotes after many veterans groups toured the project in February:
With so many homeless in the region, isn’t this just a ‘drop in the bucket?’ Piquette Square is not a ‘stand alone’ effort. Southwest Solutions is part of the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND), which has a “Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness” in Detroit. HAND and Southwest have already moved 600+ homeless individuals and families into supportive housing. Piquette represents an historic commitment to homeless veterans and we believe that the success of the veterans at Piquette Square will inspire a host of future efforts to help address homelessness. Piquette Square’s 150 units represent 50% of the Corporation for Supportive Housing’s goal for housing 300 homeless adults in Detroit in 2010.
How did this project come about? Conversations held several years ago between Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Corporation for Supportive Housing, and the Veterans Administration identified the need and potential for this project. Conversations with local partners including Southwest Solutions confirmed that there was sufficient capacity right here in the City of Detroit to bring the project to fruition.
When did it open and how does one apply? The building opened in June 2010. Homeless veterans or their advocates can apply for an apartment by contacting Terri Lopez, Southwest Housing Solutions, 313-841-3727 x.325.
How will we know if the project is working? The successful tenancy of the veterans is our foremost concern, so we will measure this and compare Piquette’s rates to national standards. Because of the previous successes of the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND) and of Southwest Solutions in housing the homeless, we expect that over 85% of the veterans will remain in their Piquette apartment for at least a year.
Where did SWS get funding for this project? The project cost $23 million and took two years to build. It was financed with a blend of resources from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Great Lakes Capital Fund, Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, Wayne County/EPA, City of Detroit, Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority, Detroit Redevelopment Brownfield Authority, Corporation for Supportive Housing, and other public and private funding sources.
Does SWS need donations to make this work? We are asking for help making sure that each of the homeless veterans that move into Piquette Square has all the household items they need. We are also enlisting partners to ensure that the veterans have access to the supportive services they need.
Is Southwest Solutions charging rent? Where will the veterans get the money to pay rent? Yes, rents for the units have been set in accordance with the funding streams for the building. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority has committed 150 vouchers for rent, so that a veteran will only have to pay out of pocket rent according to income and ability to pay. Tenants will pay 30% of their total annual income or a $50 minimum tenant rental portion as determined by MSHDA.
What is Southwest Solutions? Southwest Solutions is a leading provider of both human services and housing and economic development. Our roots are in southwest Detroit, where the organization began as a mental health service provider more than 40 years ago. For the past two decades, we have also provided housing and real estate development. Each year we serve thousands of individuals and families. Our two services – counseling and housing – work in tandem and are a national model of recovery. Southwest Solutions’ outcomes in housing the homeless are tops among 500 providers nationally.
I thought Southwest Solutions worked only in Southwest Detroit? Why is this project located near Midtown? While we have worked for many years in southwest Detroit, Southwest Solutions’ core purpose is to build strong and healthy communities within the City of Detroit irrespective of boundaries. Piquette Square’s proximity to the various veterans programs, most notably the John Dingell V. A. Hospital in the medical center, makes this an ideal location for the veterans.
Aren’t there adequate homeless shelters in the region? The solution to ending homelessness is not to build more shelters, which provide temporary places to stay. The men, women and children who stay in shelters are still homeless when they wake up each day. The solution to chronic homelessness is permanent supportive housing with services. At Piquette Square, Southwest and its partners provide substance abuse treatment and support groups, PTSD counseling, veterans benefits counseling, job readiness, life skills coaching, high school equivalency and literacy classes, and resident leadership development. All these services will help the veterans be successful tenants and regain control over their lives.
How can the community help? Volunteers are needed for activities like gardening, computer instruction, music lessons, holiday events, special meals and events. A donation drive is allowing us to acquire bed linens, bath linens, kitchenware, etc. for each apartment.
What do the units look like? Each veteran has his or her own 438 sq. ft. apartment. Each is a one-bedroom, one bathroom furnished unit with kitchen and living room built in a U- shape around a courtyard. Amenities includes a Library, Multipurpose room; Computer Center and Job Training classroom space.
Will it only house men? Both men and women reside in the building. The apartments will accommodate married couples, though units are not considered adequate for children.
Do you have plans to replicate this project? Piquette is part of a larger response by the Homeless Action Network of Detroit to address the homelessness crisis. In 2006, Detroit launched “Moving Forward Together: A Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park” in 2006. Currently HAND and its partners are involved in planning for three new supportive housing projects in Detroit that would provide an additional 160 units for homeless families and individuals. Piquette Square is unique among projects currently on the drawing board in that the complex is exclusively for homeless veterans.
Vice President for Development