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Associated Press Newswires

New Housing Project Serves Elderly Residents In Hispanic Community


10 December 2004
Copyright © 2004 Associated Press Newswires. All rights reserved. 

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Under a cold drizzle falling from a gray, winter sky, a new flower took bloom Friday on the site of an old neighborhood garden in downtown Wilmington.

State and local officials joined members of the local Hispanic community to celebrate the opening of Los Jardines, or "The Gardens," a new housing complex serving low-income senior citizens in the predominantly Hispanic Hilltop community.

"This was a garden, and now it's still a garden," said city councilman Demetrio Ortega Jr.

The spacious, brightly-lit complex features 24 one-bedroom apartments, two of which are handicapped-accessible, a laundry facility, exercise room, community room and two lounges.

Gela Petrucelli, family support services director for the Latin American Community Center, said Los Jardines already has a waiting list.

Tenants, most of them Hispanic and living on fixed incomes, can take advantage of services such as financial literacy classes, health and wellness information, recreational opportunities and, of course, community gardening.

The Latin American Community Center, just around the corner from the new complex, will work with other agencies to coordinate services for residents.

Nicomedes Santiago, 82, said he's looking forward to playing his guitar and singing for fellow residents.

Santiago, who immigrated from Puerto Rico as a migrant farmhand about 60 years ago and worked a variety of blue-collar jobs before retiring, has been living in a third-floor apartment a few blocks away but says his knee problems have made it difficult to climb the stairs. At Los Jardines, where he will pay $147 a month for rent and utilities, he can take the elevator.

"Not everybody can be a homeowner, ... but everybody needs a decent place to live," said U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del.

The new 3-story housing complex, perched on a hillside overlooking Interstate 95, was built with a $3.2 million grant to the Latin American Community Center Development Corp. by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh chipped in $164,000, and the city, which donated the land, added $25,000.

"This indeed is government at its best," said state Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington, who represents the neighborhood.

City councilman Charles "Bud" Freel said "Los Jardines" will help bring stability to the Hilltop neighborhood and its families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Delaware's Hispanic population more than doubled between 1990 and 2000, from about 16,000, or roughly 2.5 percent of the population, to more than 37,000, or close to 5 percent of the population. The state's Hispanic population currently is estimated to number about 45,000.

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