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Alexandria Prepares A Safe Haven

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By Michael Pope

For seven years, drugs and alcohol kept Wintson Burse on the streets, living a marginal existence.

"Despair. Loneliness. You know what I really wanted? I wanted to take a bath. I wanted to take a shower, you know. I wanted to be able to put on some clean clothes and have a hot meal and have a place to lay down," says Burse.

Essentially, he wanted a place like Safe Haven, a new permanent supportive housing apartment complex that will take 12 people off the streets. Burse has already signed on to serve as a janitor in the new building, where city leaders will hold an official ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday night. Burse says it's the kind of place that could have helped him years ago.

"Something like this would have been wonderful, you know, walking into a place like this where I'm living in a lot of hope and love and care, you know, and that's what I really needed," he says.

The project has been years in the works, overcoming a lawsuit from neighbors that challenged the zoning designation and delays prompted by the building's location in a historic district.

Judy Carter is the Associate Director of extended care services of the Community Services Board.

"We want to invite people in off the streets in order for them to be safe, and we can then begin to offer them services," says Carter.

The program isn't for all homeless. It's for those who are chronically homeless and also suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.

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