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Miracle City would provide housing for homeless veterans

Developers Anthony Rodriguez, left, and Michael Fernandes tour

Developers Anthony Rodriguez, left, and Michael Fernandes tour the former Hofstra building in Hempstead that they want to convert to housing for homeless veterans on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Developers are seeking permits to provide housing for homeless veterans in Hempstead Village with the hopes of starting construction in November.

The 24,000-square-foot, for-profit facility at 619 Fulton Ave. is to be called Miracle City, project co-owner Michael Fernandes said. The building on the site is currently vacant and was once owned by Hofstra University.

The renovation is expected to cost $1.1 million, Fernandes said.

When complete, the facility is to include emergency housing in the basement for homeless veterans coming off the streets and longer-term single rooms on the upper floors. More than 230 people could be housed in the facility at one time, officials said. The veterans would not have to pay to stay there, Fernandes said. Costs would be covered by state and federal program vouchers, Fernandes said.

“The eventual goal is to get them [homeless veterans] employed and to get them a place of their own,” said Fernandes, an Army veteran. “If you can pull it off, you’re providing a miracle to somebody.”

Veteran homelessness on Long Island is considered to be at “functional zero,” meaning that any homeless veteran should be placed in housing within a short time after seeking help, said Greg Curran, homeless program manager at the Northport VA Medical Center.

“This doesn’t mean that there are no homeless veterans on Long Island,” Curran said in a statement. “We have a system in place to provide immediate housing to any veteran who wants it. It could begin with transitional housing, and ultimately lead to permanent housing.”

Curran said the lack of affordable housing on Long Island is a major factor in homelessness for any population.

“Any resource that adds to the limited amount of affordable housing is desperately needed,” he said.

The facility is to employ about 20 people, including a clinical and nursing staff, counselors, and 24-hour security, said Miracle City executive director Anthony Rodriguez, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.

People who are not veterans but are homeless will also be welcome, Fernandes said.

“We’re not going to turn somebody away because they’re not a vet,” he said. “We’ll take in anybody that needs it.”

Fernandes said he hoped to open at least part of Miracle City in May but is still waiting for the approvals from the village’s Planning Board and Board of Zoning Appeals, as well as the building department.

A prehearing conference is scheduled for Friday, Planning Board chairman Steven Bullock said. The site’s zoning must be changed to housing. Edwin Monteverde, chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals, said the application hasn’t been filed with his board yet.

Bullock, who said he will recuse himself from the planning board vote because he knows the building’s owner, anticipates that November will be the earliest that construction can begin.

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