BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Julián Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, made his first-ever trip to Bridgeport on Friday, praising state and local leaders for a new East End complex that will bring permanent homes to area veterans and some of the city’s neediest.
“It’s investments like this that seek to meet people halfway,” he said before touring Milestone Apartments on Stratford Avenue. “You all have amassed an impressive track record.”
By mid-February, the block-long complex — the first new construction on the East End in years — will provide 30 one-bedroom units of affordable housing for veterans and those in need on two floors above an early learning center for about 140 children slated to open Feb. 1.
Castro joined U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Mayor Joseph P. Ganim and many other local dignitaries at the reception and ribbon-cutting for the new complex.
Earlier in the day, Castro made appearances in New Haven and Hartford. He said he was impressed by the state’s strides to effectively end homelessness among veterans, one of his key initiatives.
The Connecticut Department of Housing allocated $9.5 million to the Milestone project, according to state Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein. It will spend another $200,000 annually in rental assistance and $100,000 annually in support services for residents, she said.
Ganim praised the Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust for organizing the project from the steel rising celebrated 10 months ago to the ribbon-cutting.
Murphy told CEO Elizabeth Torres and her staff that they have set the markers for others with “giant ideas.”
“This is an indication of the commitment we have to the revitalization of the city of Bridgeport,” said Himes, noting the once “melancholy” stretch along Stratford Avenue can be reborn through such work.
Blumenthal, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, reminded those gathered that veterans account for one in 10 homeless in America.
As the crowd cheered the ribbon-cutting downstairs, former Marine Michael Walker sat in one of the furnished model apartments upstairs. Homeless for four years, he said he has been “couch surfing” ever since a divorce and loss of a business left him “with no home base.”
He’s eager to learn which of the apartments will be his new home.
“This is a blessing. It really is,” he said. “I’m more than happy now.”
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