Lighthouse Center Homeless Campus – a public hearing in Virginia Beach

A motto of the Lighthouse Center in Virginia Beach is that “we are homeless, not helpless.” As it turns out there could hardly be a more prophetic slogan. The current facility, located at 825 18th Street, has to go. It is slam in the middle of the Convention Center corridor that is slated for development as the “Central Beach District”, identified in the new Form-based code.

Volunteers of America Chesapeake, operates the Lighthouse Center day services program for homeless adults in Virginia Beach, VA. It is one of 36 Volunteers of America national affiliates that originated in 1896. This 501-C3 non-profit organization has been in operation in Virginia Beach since 1997. They are causiously cooperating with the relocation plans, asking that the City provides a proper site on which it will be able to expand its operations to include shelter facilities and meals for the local homeless population.

In response to the Lighthouse Center’s proviso the City Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation has made it a matter of public deliberation that all constituencies be included in the relocation decisions as well as the expanded scope of operations of the new facility. A public “kick-off” meeting was conducted on December 5, 2011. The agenda was promoted as: What method/process should we use to develop the campus proposal. The campus model is exemplified by Norfolk’s Union Mission Ministries, also Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

It is understandable that the Lighthouse Center volunteers and managers are guarded about the involvement of other citizens in their future facility prospects. Some faces were familiar at the “kick off”, including the Judeo-Christian Outreach and the People in Need ministries. But there were over a hundred persons at the kickoff meeting. What were all these other people doing there? “At no time in the past have the City administrators taken more than a passing interest in the plight of the homeless,” commented one of the meeting attendees. The Lighthouse Center happens to be located where the City officials want to locate a 4-star hotel.

Campus model project - LEED Silver certification

An architectural concept was displayed at the meeting by the DHNP staff, a brilliant shining campus facility located in Dallas, TX, The Bridge Homeless Assistance Center. It was suggested that there could be a design competition to generate ideas for the new campus of buildings, including low cost transition apartments, until opportunities for home ownership can be found for the residents. It was suggested that a competition solicitation proposal would be forthcoming during the month of January, derived from suggestions and comments gleaned from the audience comments and suggestions gathered on the DHNP website.

My observation about the website is that there is not opportunity to leave your comments and suggestions directly on the site. You must send an email to or even better to Natalie Anderson, the program coordination.

Questions about possible locations of the new homeless campus were deliberately avoided, although rumors were flying about where the City would like the location to be. It is obvious that the staff recommendation of a design competition must be associated with a specific site though none were mentioned at the meeting. There is always the possibility of an unsolicited RFP from a philantropic minded land owner.

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    Urban Underbelly is a blog that seeks to share the back stories of successes and struggles in achieving the visions of New Urbanism, especially in Hampton Roads, Virginia

    New Urbanism: is a city planning and architecture movement directed at the creation and restoration of vibrant neighborhood places: centralized, sustainable, walkable and socially diverse.
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