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Housing project for disabled expected to begin soon

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By Don Pace

Officials broke ground last week on a housing project for people with behavioral health issues and other disabilities.

The $2.2 million Vista Gallinas Apartments project will create 15 new rental homes and a community center. It will be on Ridge Runner Road, behind Wal-Mart.

It was a controversial project when it was proposed three years ago. During public meetings, a number of residents feared that the residents of the complex would be a threat to children and the elderly. Others said such worries were baseless.

The City Council approved it, and lawyers for the housing’s backers told the public that the city couldn’t discriminate against a project because it may benefit people with behavioral health issues.

“Supportive housing projects are instrumental for those with the most challenging housing needs — those who have disabilities and have little, if any, income to pay for rent,” Gov. Bill Richardson said at the groundbreaking. “The Vista Gallinas

Apartments and other supportive housing projects are an affordable and effective solution to reduce housing instability in communities like Las Vegas and other areas of the state.”

“Supportive housing” refers to combining homes that are affordable with supportive services to the residents. Research has shown that it is the single most effective way of preventing homelessness, particularly for people with disabilities and special needs, according to a press release.

Richardson said improving behavioral health was a primary goal early in his administration. He said nine agencies once handled mental health issues.

“There were turf battles and a lot of lack of coordination, so we put one entity in charge of mental health. The program was seriously disjointed and it took a great secretary, Human Services Secretary Pam Hyde, to streamline the system,” Richardson said. 

Richardson said a recent survey showed a deficit of 30,000 low-income units statewide.

“That’s 30,000 people who need an affordable and supportive home of their own. This is why projects like this for the state’s most needy is such a good project. It creates jobs, is environmentally sound and protects those who are most vulnerable. Most importantly it deals with one of the fundamental issues affecting our country, that is not being handled properly or with enough emphasis, and that is mental and behavioral health,” Richardson said.

Vista Gallinas will consist of four one-story buildings with a courtyard and community building clustered on a two-acre site. The community building will contain a laundry room, a unisex accessible restroom, an office, and a multipurpose room which may be used by residents for meeting and by service providers and community groups for neighborhood functions.

Looking around the site, Richardson noted that Vista Gallinas is close to other government offices like the state Children, Youth and Families Department, Aging and Long Term Services, Citizens for the Developmentally Disabled, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

City Manager Timothy Dodge said while he has only been on the job a couple of months, he has noticed there is a lot of passion in the community, where people volunteer their time and effort to make sure worthy projects like this move forward.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided the majority of the funding for this project, with nearly $1.4 million. Community First Bank of Las Vegas also put up $135,000 to Vista Gallinas.

On-site management will promote resident safety during the day and evening hours, officials said.