The homeless veterans being housed on the former Charleston Naval Base won't have to move this month after all.
State Sen. Robert Ford and Rep. Wendell Gilliard, both Charleston Democrats, helped broker a new lease deal that will allow the Chesapeake Health Education Program to remain at the base.
The lawmakers acted after The Post and Courier reported that the nonprofit group was planning to move its veterans housing because it couldn't strike a deal with S.C. Public Railways, a division of the state Commerce Department, that had bought the base property at a foreclosure sale last year.
The failure apparently stemmed from a communications gap.
The new lease, agreed to Monday, will allow the nonprofit to continue to lease several Manley Avenue duplexes at no cost for at least three more years, providing it pays all insurance and maintenance costs.
"We broke the news to some of the veterans, and they were just elated," Gilliard said. "We felt that was a big accomplishment."
Ford praised S.C. Public Railways head Mike McWhorter for being accommodating. The agency previously had communicated with the nonprofit through its lawyer.
McWhorter said he was glad Ford and Gilliard got involved and helped get a resolution with the Chesapeake people.
"They had a perception that we didn't want them there or we wanted a bunch of money for them being there, and that simply wasn't the case," McWhorter said.
The nonprofit was planning to move its veterans to a smaller set of buildings it bought off Ashley Phosphate Road.
Melissa Kelly, director of the nonprofit program, said she wished both sides could have sat down earlier to talk, "but all's well that ends well, and we're happy to have more of a partnership with them.
"I think their impression was wrong of us, and I think our impression was wrong of them," she added.
For the veterans, being able to remain at the base will give them a quieter, more park-like setting and a quicker commute to treatment programs at the Veterans Affairs health center in Charleston.
Chesapeake first moved into the former officers' family duplexes in 1996 through the McKinney Act, a federal law that gives homeless providers free access to surplus federal property. The law no longer applies to the S.C. Public Railways' property.
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