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USVI Community Pulse

New Employment and Training Initiative Launched by DHS and Mission Project Inc. for SNAP Beneficiaries

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The Department of Human Services (DHS) in the Virgin Islands, under its Division of Family Assistance, is rolling out a novel program in collaboration with Mission Project Inc. Named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment & Training Program (E&T), this initiative is set to commence on November 20. It aims to equip individuals with vital skills and support, fostering their ability to find and maintain stable employment.

As an initiative funded by the federal government and managed at the state level, the SNAP E&T Program is designed to prepare participants for the workforce by providing them with necessary skills, training, or work experience. One of its key features is the provision of support services such as transportation and childcare, which help in overcoming common barriers to employment. Additionally, the program assists in job retention.

Targeted at SNAP beneficiaries, the program is structured to offer training that improves employment skills and career opportunities. DHS’s partnership with Mission Project Inc., renowned for its community upliftment efforts, is expected to significantly enhance the program’s effectiveness and outreach.

The program offers a comprehensive array of resources and support, including:

  • Job Readiness Training: This includes workshops and seminars focused on developing job search skills, such as resume writing, interview techniques, and understanding workplace norms.
  • Career Counseling: Participants will receive individual guidance to devise a personalized career path, identify their strengths, and explore potential job avenues.
  • Skills Development: The program offers tailored training and courses that align with local employment market needs, thereby boosting job prospects.
  • Job Placement Assistance: This facet of the program involves help with job applications, matching individuals with suitable employers, and providing job referrals.
  • Supervised Job Search: Participants will receive assistance in crafting resumes or cover letters, conducting mock interviews, and developing tailored job search strategies.

Individuals interested in joining or seeking further information can reach out to the following offices:

  • St. Thomas/St. John Office: (340) 774-0930, Ext. 4309, 4377, 4477
  • St. Croix Office: (340) 772-7100, Ext. 7159, 7192

More details are available on the DHS website at www.dhs.gov.vi.

DHS continues to reaffirm its commitment to serving the community through diverse social services, aiming to offer a safety net and foster positive change by delivering non-judgmental, high-quality services and resources.

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USVI Community Pulse

Christiansted’s Old Barracks Set for Revival with Humanities in Place Grant

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The V.I. Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts (VIAC) has received a significant boost for its project to transform the Old Barracks property on Hospital Street, Christiansted, into an educational center focused on built heritage, historic preservation, architecture, and the building arts.

On Thursday, VIAC announced a $200,000 Humanities in Place Grant from the Mellon Foundation. This grant, aimed at supporting “a fuller, more complex telling of American histories and lived experiences,” will fund strategic planning and design for the project. The revitalized Old Barracks property will feature spaces for community and cultural heritage displays and activities, aligning with the Humanities in Place goal of fostering innovative approaches to understanding and celebrating diverse histories.

“With this grant, our first from a private foundation, we begin to plan for and develop the content that will be featured in our exhibit, studio, auditorium, and library/archive that are part of our proposed development of the site,” said VIAC Board Chair Mary Dema. “According to our business plan, this creates a cultural center in Christiansted that can become an attraction for residents and visitors alike.”

The project planning team will now engage with local stakeholders and experts for their input into the process.

Earlier this year, VIAC secured $850,000 in community project funding from the federal government for the Old Barracks project, thanks to successful requests from Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2024. “These requests reflect the priority my office places on the need for community development and providing more economic opportunities for our most vulnerable populations,” Ms. Plaskett said at the time.

Additionally, VIAC obtained funding to ensure the comprehensive research and documentation of the 256-year-old property’s history. A $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, through the National Endowment for the Humanities, supports VIAC’s Storytelling project. This project is gathering historical material to develop a curriculum and conducting interviews for an eventual documentary.

VIAC also secured long-term stability for the project with a 50-year lease from the Virgin Islands government. “We are thankful to Governor Bryan, the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, and the Department of Property and Procurement for facilitating the acquisition of the lease, which is vital to our development efforts,” said Ms. Dema.

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USVI Community Pulse

V.I. Parole Board to Review Cases of Manslaughter, Robbery, and Fraud

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The V.I. Parole Board has released its schedule for parole hearings in June, inviting testimony from victims, family members, and other interested parties.

To submit testimony, written comments or requests to appear before the Board must be sent by May 30, 2024. Correspondence should be addressed to:

Chairman of the Parole Board
John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility
Rural Route 1, Box 9909
Kingshill, VI 00850-9715
Phone: (340) 773-6309 ext. 6817
Email: [email protected]

Hearing Schedule

June 3:
Edwin Rivera, convicted of second-degree robbery and currently incarcerated at the Citrus County Detention Facility in Florida, will have his parole application reviewed.

June 5:
Five inmates from the Tallahatchie County Facility in Missouri will be heard:

  • Jahzeel Fenton – First-degree assault (domestic violence)
  • Yamini Potter – Grand larceny, identity theft, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice
  • Jim Wallace – Voluntary manslaughter
  • Elieser Edwards – First-degree robbery
  • Dekumar Rogers – Unauthorized possession of a firearm

June 7:
The board will review the case of Mekel Blash, serving a sentence for second-degree murder, from the Wallens Ridge State Prison, Keen Mountain Correctional Facility, and Red Onion State Prison in Virginia.

June 10:
Applications from inmates at the John A. Bell Correctional Facility will be considered:

  • Francisco Tirado – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • Ethelbert Benjamin – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • William Wilson – Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute

June 11:
The board will hear applications from inmates of the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex:

  • Curtis Petersen – Stalking (domestic violence)
  • Edward Paul – Unauthorized possession of a firearm
  • Ray Sanderson – First-degree attempted robbery
  • Shamall Fleming – Second-degree assault (domestic violence)

Public Advisory

The Parole Board reminds the public that parole eligibility is based on the inmate’s sentence and V.I. parole statutes. Inclusion on the eligibility list does not guarantee parole or a scheduled hearing. Parole can only be granted on the recommendation of the Director of the Bureau of Corrections. Additionally, release dates depend on various conditions, including approval by the State Council of Interstate Compact for the Supervision of Adult Offenders.

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USVI Community Pulse

USVI Prosecutors and Public Defenders Now Eligible for Law School Loan Repayment Grants

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Prosecutors and federal public defenders in the U.S. Virgin Islands now have a chance to ease their law school loan burdens through a new grant program.

The Virgin Islands Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) has announced the acceptance of applications for the John R. Justice Grant Program. This initiative, established during the Obama administration, provides loan repayment assistance to qualifying prosecutors and public defenders who commit to staying in their positions for at least three years.

This year, the LEPC has secured $51,840 in grant funds for the program. They plan to distribute approximately 10 grants of around $5,000 each, although the final amount could vary based on the number of applicants. “Awards may increase depending on the number of respondents,” the LEPC stated.

The grants are available to full-time federal public defenders and prosecutors. Full-time is defined as working at least 75% of a standard 40-hour work week. The selection process will prioritize applicants who demonstrate the greatest financial need in repaying their student loans.

The application process involves several steps: income verification, school loan verification, and the completion of a John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program Service Agreement. Applicants must also submit additional documents, including education loan records and proof of employment. The LEPC has indicated it will work with the Department of Labor to account for any increases in the cost of living.

Applications must be submitted electronically to the LEPC by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at [email protected]. Incomplete applications or those lacking required signatures and documents will not be considered.

For further information or to request an application, interested parties can contact Ms. Carmen Potter, Executive Assistant to the Director, at (340) 774-6400 or via email at [email protected].

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