It might be a simple patch of land right now, nestled against a hillside near schools, offices and health care facilities, but the small crowd gathered Monday afternoon have high hopes for it.
(At right, California Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Peter J. Gravett (Major General, Ret.) shakes the hand of Lt. Renard Thomas, who will be the first resident of the new veterans’ village)
Santa Clarita Valley Habitat For Heroes has a dream of building a village for veterans returning home from defending our country on native soil or faraway places. That dream is coming to fruition on a 24-acre parcel on Centre Pointe Parkway, where officials announced today their intention of building 87 homes.
Through the collaboration of state and local resources, low-income veterans will qualify for beautiful four-bedroom homes which veterans can purchase using a CalVet Home Loan and a Habitat SF/SCV second loan.
The veteran will provide sweat equity to reduce the costs and help build these green energy-efficient affordable homes. Most of the homes will be duplexes and there will be the traditional amenities that go with a housing tract, including a Victory Garden for the residents. The homes will be built on an 8-acre graded parcel within the acreage and the surrounding land will be preserved as open space, according to SCV Habitat For Heroes co-founder Carl Goldman.
War veteran Lt. Renard Thomas, who will be one of the village’s first residents, was anxious to get the program started.
“I’m really fired up and excited about this opportunity. There are over 10,000 veterans in the SCV. I also work at the College of the Canyons as a director of the veterans program where we serve over 600 veterans. And this is such a tremendous opportunity,” Thomas said. “If your objective was to serve the veterans, you guys have achieved your objective. There is no better to say thank you than to offer a veteran the opportunity to have a home.”
“It is very rare that a government agency that is like the City of Santa Clarita or like the California Veterans Administration under Secretary Gravett’s leadership,” said Donna Deutchman, Executive Director, Habitat For Humanity SFV/SCV. “We had to create new programs. We had to create new ways of doing mortgages. We had to do many, many things to make more homes available to more veterans in better ways.”
“What we’re doing here today is truly going to lead this state as a city that cares for veterans in a unique way,” she continued. “In a way that can change lives and also produce for our country a group of veterans who will stay within the city and become a leadership group for the city utilizing the unique talents and abilities that they’ve learned in service to their country and in service to Santa Clarita.”
Mike Mizrahi, Regional Affairs Manager for The Gas Company, was proud to point out the group’s accomplishment in the short time SCV Habitat For Heroes has been around.
“To take a germ of an idea, turn it into a dream and a vision then to come out and to enlist other people in that dream and vision like we did with these two standing right here (Carl and Jeri) and what ends up happening invariably is you push the snowball up and you push it up to the top of that hill And then just by sheer force of that dream and vision, it goes down the other side and you can’t stop it and that’s what’s happening here.,” he said. “To come out here and take a look at this plot of land – a year ago, guys, it was just a dream and now we’re here today.”
Goldman, KHTS-AM radio co-owner, who along with his wife Jeri Seratti Goldman heads the SCV Habitat For Heroes advisory board, said, “In addition to post-war injuries, veterans returning to civilian life face high rates of unemployment and a depressed housing market.”
He cited a report stating 80,000 veterans who served after 9/11 are paying more than 50% of their income for housing, leaving little flexible income for repairs or modifications to their homes.
“After serving our country, they should not be faced with such hardships. They need and deserve our help,” Goldman concluded.
The Veteran “Enriched” Neighborhood is the crowning achievement of the three phases of SCV Habitat For Heroes’ three-phase program. Other facets include:
A Brush With Kindness — Sponsored by The Gas Company, this program brings together donated materials, volunteers, and resources to help veterans who need repairs or modifications on their existing homes.
Neighborhood Revitalization — Working with partners and the City of Santa Clarita, this phase will focus on renovating foreclosed properties in redevelopment areas selected by the city for veteran families to purchase. Veterans will work alongside volunteers and builders to rehab their home as well as take advantage of financial and other educational workshops. Entire neighborhoods will be transformed through additional Brush With Kindness efforts.
Centre Point Habitat For Heroes is sponsored by The Gas Company in partnership with KHTS AM1220. Military Connection.com nurtured the introductions and the Governor’s Interagency Council On Veterans helped to bring the collaboration to completion.
To learn more about SCV Habitat For Heroes, go to their website, www.HabitatSCV.org or call (818) 884-8808.
Written by Carol Rock