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Posted: July 16, 2010

Piquette Square gives homeless vets a place

$23M complex a new beginning in Detroit


A $23-million Detroit apartment complex, built to house homeless veterans and provide them with a variety of social services at one location, was hailed as a new beginning for veterans and a solid addition to New Center during a grand opening Thursday.

Piquette Square, which opened in June at 285 Piquette, offers 150 one-bedroom apartments as well as 11,000 square feet of common area and commercial space inside a four-story brick complex. About 90 residents live in the facility. The rest are expected to move in by the end of July. Residents who receive veterans pensions pay up to 30% of the rent; those who have no income are 100% subsidized.

"As far as I'm concerned, this building has been my salvation," said Don Hutch, 58, of Detroit and one of the first tenants. An Air Force veteran, Hutch suffers from a blood disorder that caused him to lose both legs and all his fingers but one to amputation. He gets around in a motorized wheelchair.

"Knowing that there's a place like this offers new hope for veterans," said Hutch, who is unemployed. "It gives them a sense of faith that others out there really do care and are trying to help."

Coniel Norman, a formerly homeless Army veteran and a resident of Piquette Square, played basketball for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers in the mid-1970s. He once competed against former Detroit Piston and current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, with whom he shared a stage Thursday.

Piquette Square was built to address a major problem with homeless veterans in metro Detroit. It's only the second project of its kind in Michigan, and is billed as one of the largest projects of its kind in America.

Tammy Duckworth, assistant Veteran Affairs secretary and a disabled veteran herself, estimated that there are nearly 107,000 homeless vets nationwide, including more than 4,000 in metro Detroit.

"We are all dishonored when a veteran sleeps on the streets in a country they helped defend," she said. "Piquette Square offers a haven for them to get back on their feet."

A key component of the complex is the availability of on-site support services, including mental health counseling, substance-abuse treatment, job training, computer labs and educational programs to help the veterans develop healthy, independent living skills.

Southwest Solutions is the developer, owner and manager of Piquette Square, which is situated on the same ground where the Studebaker factory once stood. The project was financed through a combination of tax credits, bond funding, Michigan State Housing Development Authority chronic homeless funds and various grants.

For information about Piquette Square, call 313-297-1381.

Related materials

Graphic: Map of area (click to see larger version)

A version of this story appears on page 6A of the Friday, July 16, 2010, print edition of the Detroit Free Press.

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