AKWESASNE-- With one giant pair of scissors, a massive red ribbon was cut and phase III of the Sunrise Acres supportive housing facility was open in Akwesasne. It with be the new home for eighteen people –– a mix of seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

“Whatever their individual needs are, they will be able to gain the resources that they need to obtain a goal in life. It could be someone who wants to get a full time job or if they are having trouble with alcohol, that would be worked into their individual plans,” said Akwesasne Housing Authority Executive Director Retha Leno.

The 18 apartments are spread among two single-story buildings –– one with 12 units for people 55 and older 10 of which are designed specifically for those who are frail and the remaining two set aside for people with developmental disabilities; the other contains six apartments, including four supportive homes reserved for homeless veterans.

All the units are priced for people with incomes at or below 50% of the area median income. The Housing Authority will provide rental assistance for eight units, while New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance will provide rental assistance to the four supportive units.

“We continue to be a growing community here in Akwesasne, and the need for additional housing was identified and sought through this program. The completion of this space represents a beautiful and functional living space built for our community with special needs, our veterans and frail elderly,” said St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Member Benjamin Herne.

“Sunrise Acres Phase III is providing much-needed affordable housing for seniors and veterans in Franklin County. Congratulations to the Akwesasne Housing Authority and everyone who made this exciting new development possible. We welcome residents to their new homes,” said Franklin County Legislature Chairman Don Dabiew.

The $7 million supportive housing project was funded through a combination of state and federal grants and loans. The state Office of Homes and Community Renewal HOME program provided $2.2 million of the project’s cost, with an additional $800,000 coming from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Homeless Housing Assistance Program, and $64,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The Akwesasne Housing Authority also provided nearly $3.5 million to fund the project through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indian Housing Block Grant Program. Additional financing was provided through the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program.

The apartments are not transitional housing, rather they are supportive housing, where a case worker is assigned to help each resident. People needing help with laundry or cooking skills will be able to check off on a list what areas that they need help with and a caseworker will be assigned to them. Unlike some other facilities, residents here will not be under any sort of time limitation; they can stay in the apartments for as long as they want.

“Our program is designed to provide a home-like atmosphere that enables residents to obtain the skills that they will need to live as independently as possible. Every attempt is made to accommodate the individual’s request, including home decor, leisure time, meal planning and recreation activities,” said Program Manager Heather Durant-Benedict.

“As we all know, housing options in the community are difficult for anyone, for individuals living off of limited disability income, so the thought that they would be given the chance to live in this beautiful building seems surreal,” said Durant-Benedict.

The project is the third in the Sunrise Acres housing complex. The first part of the development was built in 1998. It included six apartment buildings targeted to the elderly, an administration building, and a warehouse. The Phase 2 development was completed in the summer of 2011 and provided five additional apartment buildings, a community center, parking area and pavilion on 28 acres of tribal land. Each one-story multi-family building is divided into four two-bedroom apartments, comprising a total of 20 units.

Speciality units were built for people with mobility issues and another unit was built specifically for someone with a hearing or visual impairment.

Six residents have already started to move in to the latest phase of the project.

The area’s state representatives said the project not only gives residents a new home but will also give many of them a new lease on life.

“This new development will help meet an essential need in the St. Regis Mohawk community. I couldn’t be more pleased by this affordable housing investment, which will certainly go a long way in helping change lives for the better for many years to come,” said state Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury.

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, said, “The completion of this development helps provide additional affordable apartments in the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation in the Akwesasne territory. I am pleased that apartments will be set aside for veterans experiencing homelessness, for people with intellectual or development disabilities, and for senior citizens. It is imperative that individuals have access to affordable housing here in the North Country.”

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