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Newport, Like Covington, Also Hoping for Scholar House Program

Newport residents will get the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed Scholar House development in the city's Westside on Thursday.

According to organizers, Newport's proposal for a Scholar House could be in direct competition with Covington's, which was announced as a hoped-for development at the former Lincoln Grant School in August.

Scholar House is a housing and education initiative that allows the head of a household to reach self-sufficiency, freeing themselves of public assistance (including housing).

The Brighton Center and Housing Authority of Newport have applied for low income housing tax credits to build a scholar house development over the Bernadette Watkins Park, repurposing the Marquarite Robinson Community Center as a daycare for the planned development. Relocation of the park may take years and current plans from the Housing Authority of Newport call for demolition of Peter G Noll and subsequent onsite redevelopment of public housing adjacent the future Route 9 highway connector.

“A lot of important decisions are being made without the public's knowledge or input,” says Kyle Randall, Chairman of the Westside Citizens Coalition. “The purpose of the forum is to inform the public of plans that directly or indirectly impact them and to give them a voice in the discussing the future of their neighborhood.” Representatives from the Brighton Center, Housing Authority of Newport, and City of Newport have been invited to participate at Thursday's meeting which is scheduled from 7 - 9 p.m. at New Hope Christian Center (941 Central Ave.).

Participants must be at least eighteen years old, eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher, and be full-time students in a degree or specialty institution of higher learning. First priority is given to single parents and the layout of the units is geared toward supporting families.

Those in the program get counseling, attend workshops, and receive support from neighbors and staff while pursuing their training or education full-time.

Scholar House includes on-site child-care.

Scholar House also offers programs that involve enhanced health maintenance, parenting skills, management of family resources, nutritional knowledge, problem solving, work skills and job search techniques. Most of these services are free; Housing and childcare are based on the participant’s income.

Once residents have graduated from Scholar House, they are allowed ample time to find and move into permanent housing, according to the program's website.

According to a post by Kyle Randall at the meeting's Facebook invitation page, the Newport and Covington projects are in competition with each other.

"...(T)here may be an overlap conflict with the market study. If so, it would indicate a sustainable need for only one of them, even if funding was available for both. If the market study indicates a need for more units than the combined projects, it would seem advantageous for Newport to wait on development for a time to learn from the successes and failures of the Covington model," Randall wrote.

If tax credits come through for the Covington Scholar House program at Lincoln Grant, the property would be developed by Louisville-based Marian Development Group and operated by Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Map of proposed Scholar House site