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People First


​During the extensive outreach and community engagement period that preceded the plans for the St. Paul’s transformation, residents communicated their desire for individualized supportive services to improve their lives. In response, the community members in partnership with City leadership envisioned People First.


As part of its commitment to meaningfully put people first, the City’s leaders made an annual commitment of up to $3.5 Million with the goal of ensuring:

·         A high-quality, comprehensive approach to enhancing life outcomes for residents.

·         Individualized family coaching and referral services.

·         A system that stays with families throughout the transformation.


Formally launched in August 2018, People First seeks to address current family challenges, empower residents to lead healthy, prosperous lives, and build upon existing community strengths and assets. 


Today, the program provides high-quality mobility and human capital investment services to residents in Tidewater Gardens, phase 1 of the transformation. As the transformation progresses, People First will ultimately touch every one of the 1,700 families living in the St. Paul’s Area. 

People First remains the foundation for the overall transformation effort. The People First initiative is coordinated and implemented in parallel with the physical redevelopment to improve resident outcomes. People First responds directly to residents’ needs as identified through community meetings, household surveys, stakeholder work sessions, and analysis of resident data.


In 2019, the City hired Urban Strategies, Inc (USI) to implement the People First Initiative. Urban Strategies, Inc. (USI), a non-profit organization, was selected by the City and NRHA through a competitive procurement process to implement the People First program. USI is a national leader in results-informed human services development, planning, and strategy implementation as part of comprehensive neighborhood transformations. Through People First, USI will ensure that all families and children in St. Paul’s are safe, supported and thriving.


USI’s work is driven by four foundational pillars:

1.      Housing stability

2.      Economic mobility

3.      Health & wellness

4.      Education


To learn more about USI visit their website.


Overall, People First initiative is strengths-based, and family focused. It seeks to address current family challenges, empower residents to lead healthy, prosperous lives, and build upon existing community strengths and assets.

How Does It Work?

People First starts with a case manager who will be assigned to every family living in the Tidewater Gardens, Calvert Square and Young Terrace neighborhoods. The case manager will meet with each family individually to determine goals and create individualized plans for each family member, including children and seniors. Not everyone will receive a case manager at the same time; People First services will be phased in based on the overall neighborhood plan. The plan will offer assistance in the areas of job training and education, housing and health and wellness services.

What Are The Services?

People First – Job Training and Education

Will provide employment preparation and training for jobs, assistance in finding a job, and on-going counseling designed to help you be successful in the workplace. We will develop programs for residents with little to no work experience connect to job openings, and families already working to move up to jobs with higher pay. We will invest deeply in training, skills needed to keep a job, and continued support.

People First – Housing

Will provide assistance to make it easier for you and your family to connect to quality housing based on your family’s needs. As you know, you have choices. You can decide to move to new housing outside of the St. Paul’s area using a housing choice voucher. You can move to another public housing community. Or you can stay and become a part of the renewed St. Paul’s area. We will provide support no matter your choice.

If you decide to move with a housing choice voucher, we will help you find a home, apply for and secure that home, work with your landlord and property manager, and develop an early alert system to help you should you experience a crisis. If you want to stay in the St. Paul’s area, we will help you reach this goal and work with you through the transition. We will also work with families who desire to become homeowners through NRHA’s Family Self-Sufficiency program or FSS.

People First – Health and Wellness Services

Will provide comprehensive health services, mental health services, life skills training, childcare, transportation, financial planning, youth education and academic support, career pathways, parenting classes and other services as necessary based on family and individual needs.

How Do I Get Started?

People First is currently working with Tidewater Gardens residents. Getting started is easy! If you have not been in contact with the People First team yet, please give us a call at 757-390-4365 or visit the main office at 447 Walke Street to enroll in services. Once you enroll in services you will be connected with a family support specialist who will work with you to create an individualized plan based on your goals for your family. The team is here to support you through every step of the process and connect you to services, resources, and programs you desire to help your family thrive.

Services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Relocation assistance

  • Education assistance

  • Employment services

  • Health and wellness

  • Youth services

  • Financial wellness

  • Pathways to homeownership

  • Lessening the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

People First

Contact us today to get connected!


Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

447 Walke Street, Norfolk VA 23504

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is available to help the residents in this process?

We heard you loud and clear during the community meetings about the transformation of the St. Paul’s area – people must come first if the transformation is to be successful! So we launched People First, Empowered by Urban Strategies. People First coaches will help each person living in the St. Paul’s area achieve their goals by providing assistance in the areas of job training, education, housing, financial, health and wellness.

People First is spearheaded by Urban Strategies, Inc. (USI) a national nonprofit with extensive experience in implementing place-based human capital development strategies in communities that are undergoing comprehensive physical revitalization.


People First services are voluntary but we strongly encourage you to participate.  Tidewater Gardens residents may enroll in services by going directly to the People First office located at 447 Walke St, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm or by calling (757) 390-4365.


2. What are my housing options? 


You have plenty of choices!  To get started, we request that every Head of Household (HOH) in Tidewater Gardens complete a survey about their housing choices.  Then, a People First coach will be assigned to work with you on the next steps and help you prepare for your move.

We are committed to ensuring that each household in Tidewater Gardens can locate suitable, decent, safe and sanitary housing that is the right size for your family - whether it’s a temporary or permanent move. 

Please understand that NRHA wants to make sure that you have access to all the information available for you to make the right housing decision for you and your family. It is our duty to provide you housing choices that meet your needs. These choices include:

  • A Housing Choice voucher to move to housing on the private market.

  • Another NRHA public housing community such as Young Terrace, Calvert Square, Oakleaf Forest Partrea Midrise, Huntersquare Midrise, Bobbitt Midrise, or Sykes Midrise.

  • Another NRHA Project Based Voucher community such as Grandy Village, Diggs Town, Franklin Arms, North Wellington or Cottage Bridge.

  • Temporarily move to the above options and return to the redeveloped St. Paul’s area once built.


3. How will I find the right place? 

Your People First coach will provide information to help you make your housing decision.  You will not have to move until you have received the 120-day notice for relocation and are provided reasonable choices for replacement housing—a decent, safe, and sanitary home that is at least equal or better than your present home.  Your coach will assist you through every step of the process – before, during and after your move.  Get started now with your People First coach so you will be prepared when the time comes.


4. What if I need a ride to go house hunting?  


Your People First coach will help you with transportation!  Contact your assigned coach directly for details. If you have not been assigned a coach, please visit the People First office located at 447 Walke St or call (757) 390-4365.


5. What is the next step if I’m interested in renting a house or apartment? 

If you choose a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) issued by NRHA, your People First coach will work with you through this process. Your People First coach will assist you with completing and submitting an HCV application to NRHA’s Occupancy Department.


Once NRHA receives your application, you will receive a letter from the Occupancy Department with the date of your first interview and a checklist of the documents needed for the interview.


After your documents have been received and verified, you will be scheduled for your briefing appointment. At your briefing appointment you will receive information about:

  • Rent payment standards

  • How housing inspections are completed

  • Using your voucher to move within or out of Norfolk and other important information


Following this briefing you will be given your HCV which lets you begin searching for your new home.


You will have 60 days to find new housing.  It is important to stay in touch with your People First coach during this period, so be sure to connect with your coach as soon as you receive your voucher.  They will help you with your search!  If you are unable to find a new home that suits your needs, an additional 30-day extension can be granted to you to keep looking.  You will need to keep a record of the places where you have searched for housing. If you need an extension to continue searching, you must contact the NRHA Occupancy Department before your voucher expires.


Once you find a house you like you will be required to provide the NRHA Occupancy Department with a copy of an unsigned lease and a Request for Tenant Approval (RFTA), signed and completed by the potential HCV landlord. We ask that the lease is unsigned to allow People First and NRHA staff the opportunity to review the lease to make sure it complies with federal, state and fair housing laws. The NRHA Occupancy staff will then determine if the property’s rent is reasonable and affordable for you and your family based on your family’s reported income.     


Voucher holders are not required to have a job, but you may be responsible for additional expenses such as utility bills and other fees. Your voucher will never expire as long as you follow the rules and regulations of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and you remain eligible.


6. What happens if the landlord requires an application fee? 

You will have to pay any rental application fees upfront and out-of-pocket. After you have relocated out of Tidewater Gardens, your People First coach will help you complete a relocation benefits packet.  Once the packet is completed, it will be sent to NRHA for processing. NRHA will reimburse you for up to three (3) application fees.


7. Who is responsible for paying the security deposit?


NRHA will provide a grant to pay the security deposit for Tidewater Gardens residents.


Before a security deposit is paid, the following must happen:

  • The HCV process must be completed

  • The new home must pass the required Housing Quality Standards inspection

  • The Tidewater Gardens resident must sign and provide a copy of the new lease to their People First coach


A deposit payment will be paid directly to the new landlord within seven (7) business days after the above steps are completed. It is important to note, any security deposit or credit being held by NRHA on your current apartment will not be refunded to you; instead the funds will be applied to the grant amount for your move.


8. Will NRHA help me with the cost of my move? 

You have a choice. You can either have a full-move with a NRHA-approved moving company where they will pack your belongings and move them to your new place OR you may select to self-move, where you are responsible for packing and moving your own belongings and you will be paid based on the number of bedrooms you have.


Self-move payments based on Tidewater Gardens bedroom size:

  • One bedroom                          $900

  • Two bedrooms                        $1,100

  • Three bedrooms                      $1,300

  • Four bedrooms                        $1,500


These amounts may be reduced if a household splits to form more than one household when you leave your current home.  Your People First coach can offer more information.  Full-move and self-move funding is offered as a grant, not a loan, so you do not have to pay it back.

9. What documents do I need to provide to NRHA to be reimbursed for my moving expenses?


For application fee reimbursements, you must provide a legible, written, or printed receipt to show the amount that was paid to the prospective landlord(s).  If you don’t have a receipt, you may show proof of an electronic funds transfer (PayPal, CashApp, etc.) or a money order detachment with the name of the   landlord to whom the funds were paid. The money order detachment must be filled in with the name of the company or person that received payment, along with the reason for payment (i.e. application fee).


For deposit payments (landlord and utility), you must provide a legible, written, or printed copy of the lease agreement and/or utility bill which shows the amount being requested.


For self-move reimbursement, you must remove all belongings and trash from your unit and turn in your keys to the Property Management staff.

10. Are the utility deposits and connection fees covered?


Utility deposits will be paid by NRHA as a grant.  It is important to note, any deposit or credit being held by NRHA on your current apartment will not be refunded to you; instead the funds will be applied to the grant amount for your relocation.


Connection fees for utilities will be reimbursed after you provide a legible, written, or printed copy of the utility bill which shows the amount due.  Connection fees for utilities are given as a grant that you do not have to pay back.


11. What out of pocket fees should I expect to pay with no reimbursement?


You will not be reimbursed for the following:

  • More than three application fees

  • Holding fees for housing

  • Any portion for a deposit and/or holding fee that is paid for a home that you decide not to occupy


12. What happens if I move out and things do not work out?  Will I be allowed to return to public housing, will I be placed on a waiting list? 

You still have options even if things don’t work out! After being on the HCV program for one year, you can request that your name be placed back on the public housing waiting list with a priority status compared to other general applicants. To be eligible for this opportunity, you must remain in good standing with your landlord as well as NRHA.  You will have 90 days at the end of your first year on the HCV program to submit your request in writing to the attention of NRHA Relocation Specialist, P.O. Box 968, Norfolk, VA  23501. Remember this opportunity expires 90 days after your first year in the HCV program.


Remember, your People First coach will stay with you after you move from your current home. People First services are offered for up to five (5) years after your move, no matter where you live.  So make sure you stay in touch with your coach and give him/her your current contact information.