More than 35 veterans will have a home for the holidays thanks to a team of public and private agencies and the quick work of their staff.
The District of Columbia Housing Authority; affordable housing developer and provider E&G Group; Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center; and the District of Columbia Office of Veterans Affairs (OVA) worked quickly to have 14 veterans housed in Ward 4 within two weeks. Another 22 will have housing by the end of December.
“Getting all of the various agencies to make it happen all at once is extraordinary,” said Jim Edmondson, member of E&G Group.
Dee Dee Alston, a regional manager of E&G Group, said, “This is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had with the D.C. Housing Authority.”
She said HCVP inspectors worked expeditiously to approve the newly renovated units and “went one step further and found vouchers for furniture.”
Safety, warmth, peace, pride, connections to loved ones all are things that many take for granted, but these newly housed veterans will now share, said Ronald McCoy, director of DCHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP).
This program administers the VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers that allowed E&G Group’s properties to become affordable. As of mid-December, DCHA had 930 VASH vouchers and more than 100 are still being processed to house veterans.
“With these types of partnerships, we will be able to end veteran homelessness, hopefully by 2015, but definitely by 2016,” McCoy said.
Dr. Maria Llorente, chief of Washington, D.C.’s VA Hospital’s Mental Health Service agreed.
“It takes a large group of people to make sure we do this right…and to make this community a better one,” she said.
In addition to the VA, Easter Seals and OVA also are offering a variety of services to help the new residents. E&G Group made sure to establish a budget to ensure wrap around services will be offered onsite, as well.
One new resident, Brian Lee Evans, 68, originally from Newport Beach, CA, said he was pursuing his biomedical research on the east coast when he ran out of money. Until this opportunity came around, he was sleeping in his car, he said.
“Sometimes when you help somebody, you don’t know who it is,” he said.
With his new apartment, he hopes to be able to continue his online studies for a Master’s degree and apply for a fellowship nearby.
“We applaud you sir and madam in whatever capacity you served our country,” Alston said to the crowd. “We are proud to offer you a home for Christmas.”