© 2024 WHRO Public Media
5200 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk VA 23508
757.889.9400 | info@whro.org
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Virginia Beach nonprofit breaks ground on major expansion that includes affordable apartments

The Judeo-Christian Outreach Center, a nonprofit to help homeless adults, broke ground on an expansion Monday, May 20, 2024.
Photo by Mechelle Hankerson
The Judeo-Christian Outreach Center, a nonprofit to help homeless adults, broke ground on an expansion Monday, May 20, 2024.

The Judeo-Christian Outreach Center’s overhaul has been in the works for years. It will help the center provide services to get people permanently housed.

The Judeo-Christian Outreach Center, an organization that helps homeless adults in Virginia Beach, broke ground on its long-awaited expansion and renovation project this week.

Group leaders and city officials churned dirt with blue ceremonial shovels printed with the JCOC logo to mark the start of construction. The $14 million building will provide 38 affordable housing units, a commercial kitchen, a dining hall and administrative offices for the center’s programs when it’s completed in 2026.

JCOC Executive Director Todd Walker said he’s been working toward renovating the campus since he started as executive director in 2012.

The JCOC is not primarily a housing program, but Walker said providing stable shelter is the bedrock to meeting other essential needs.

“To help an individual, the big work starts once you get them in housing,” he said. “Then you can address some of the things that we hold them accountable for when they’re unhoused, like sobriety and mental health and physical health .… How can you do that when you don’t have a safe environment where you’re sleeping every night?”

The JCOC will also provide supportive services — like help finding permanent housing, connecting with health resources, applying for disability or veteran benefits and more — to the people living there.

The new units will be roughly 300 square feet with a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Residents will be able to stay as long as they need to, and the goal is to help them find permanent housing, according to Kristin Ward, development director at the JCOC.

More than $4 million in tax credits will help the JCOC cover the rent of those who can’t afford to pay themselves.

The 38 affordable units will help the JCOC’s clients, but they’re a drop in the bucket addressing Virginia Beach’s need for affordable housing.

According to a Virginia Tech housing study commissioned by the Virginia Beach City Council, one in three households in the city are cost-burdened, paying 30% or more of their income on housing costs. The report says low-income households struggle to find affordable rentals.

“We’re dealing with it as a crisis,” said Mayor Bobby Dyer at Monday’s groundbreaking. He said the city is encouraging denser development to address the shortage.

The groundbreaking took place at the center’s current location, a small campus of four buildings off Virginia Beach Boulevard that Walker described as “tattered.”

The JCOC started in 1986 as a coalition of five churches to help people who were experiencing homelessness at the Oceanfront. In 2017, the center faced a push from the city to relocate away from the resort area. It held its ground, continuing to provide service to people in the area.

The new building will grow its Virginia Beach Boulevard home base. Board members raised over $14 million for the three-story building. Construction should be complete within the next 18 months.

In the meantime, the center is operating services out of other locations.

Community dinner is available Monday through Friday at Mount Olive Baptist Church. First Lynnhaven Baptist Church serves community dinner on Saturday and hosts a food pantry on Tuesday and Saturday. The Housing Resource Center on North Witchduck Road provides daytime services like showers and laundry, as well as emergency overnight housing.

Updated: May 23, 2024 at 11:14 AM EDT
This story was updated to add more information about the JCOC's current services.

The world changes fast.

Keep up with daily local news from WHRO. Get local news every weekday in your inbox.

Sign-up here.