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Norfolk selects nonprofit to run People First program that will cost about $3 million each year

Urban Strategies, Inc. will take over the city's People First program. It's a long-term commitment to residents as they're forced to move from the St. Paul's area over the next two decades

NORFOLK, Va. — Urban Strategies, Inc. - a human services nonprofit organization - will take over Norfolk's 'People First' program that offers transition assistance to thousands of public housing residents who will be forced to move from their homes due to the city's St. Paul's Revitalization project.

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The first phase of 187 Tidewater Gardens families are expected to begin the moving process this summer. Currently, local caseworkers are helping these families prepare for the transition.

"For us, this is really about helping families achieve self-sufficiency and reach the goals they set for themselves," said Susan Perry, Norfolk Special Assistant to the City Manager for Poverty Reduction and Community Initiatives. 

Urban Strategies will take over the case management and offer 'human development services' for the remaining phases in Tidewater Gardens, and the upcoming phases in Young Terrace and Calvert Square.

The City of Norfolk will pay Urban Strategies about $2.8 million annually to work with individual families before, during and after they move out of the St. Paul's area. The annual funding was created by a 2018 tax increase, Perry said. The 'People First' program offers support to families for up to 5 years after they move from the area.

"It's really about the health and wellness, employment and education," Perry said. "Relocation and mobility services are just one piece of it."

Perry said local caseworkers are already working with 181 of the 187 families in Phase One who could be forced to move this summer. She said Urban Strategies may help with those cases, but not take them over.

"What we don't want is for families in phase one who have built a rapport and trust with their case managers to have to hop to another manager," she said.

Perry said she hopes the first phase of Tidewater Gardens residents will get settled in their new homes before the next school year begins, so children can start school in their new districts. 

Urban Strategies will take the lead on Phase Two and the remaining parts of the St Paul's project, which could take decades.

A new mixed-income neighborhood will be built once the public housing communities are torn down. 

Norfolk recently received a $30 million Housing and Urban Development grant for the St. Paul's Revitalization project.