By Debbie Gregory.
In Southern California on April 12, 2014, Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/ Santa Clarita Valleys (Habitat SF/SCV) presented the keys of twelve new homes to local Veteran families. The homes were built as part of the Habitat for Humanity’s Sylmar Veteran Enriched Neighborhood, and made possible through the support of many local and corporate sponsors, in collaboration with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet).
Sylmar Habitat for Heroes, as it has been named, is the first community that provides home ownership in a neighborhood environment to low-income Veteran families, while also providing free social services to the families. Their Enriched Neighborhood™ model provides social services through partnerships with local businesses and non-profit organizations. These valuable services include financial planning and support, self-sufficiency education, health screenings, and health education. Sylmar Habitat for Heroes will also provide for other unique needs these Veteran families may have, including FOCUS training, stress counseling, art workshops for trauma victims, and ensuring that all Veteran families in residence have access to all of the military benefits they are entitled to.
Los Angeles County has the highest number of Veteran residents in California, and Sylmar is home to one of the nation’s highest populations of combat Veterans. But Sylmar’s Veterans have been returning home from war only to battle unemployment. And many of the combat Veterans have suffered a service related disability. Many of those who manage to find work aren’t earning enough money to provide their families with much more than sub-standard housing, and they often go into credit card debt. Many of the area’s Veterans are living paycheck to paycheck.
Habitat SF/SCV built Sylmar Habitat for Heroes in order to provide affordable homes for struggling local Veterans. The housing, training and support will help these families get out of poverty and move up to the middle class. The project assists these low-income Veteran families qualify for the four bedroom homes, which the Veterans purchase using a CalVet Home Loan, a Habitat SF/SCV second loan, and a deferred silent third loan from California Department of Housing and Community (HCD).
Of the over 200 people currently enrolled in Habitat SF/SCV, 99.9% are high school graduates, with 91% of children from these assisted Veteran families going on to college or trade school, and 46% of those at a four-year university. There is a 0% teen pregnancy rate after moving into the Habitat homes, and 13.9% of the parents have returned to school to advance employment. There has not been one single foreclosure.
Habitat SF/SCV was founded in 1990 as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. However, the organization functions as an independent, 501c3 non-profit organization that is manned and managed locally. Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV serves North Los Angeles County, building homes for Veteran families and low-income working families. With the completion of the Sylmar Habitat for Heroes project, the organization has provided over 235 homes, and is among the top Habitat affiliates in the nation.
Military Connection CEO Debbie Gregory was presented with a leaf on the community’s Giving Tree at the key ceremony for the Sylmar Enriched Neighborhood™. MilitaryConnection.com is a proud sponsor of Habitat SF/SCV and the Sylmar Habitat for Heroes.
“It is such an important way to give back to Veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much, and have earned the American Dream. Providing homes and resources was my end goal in introducing Habitat to CalVet, and I commend both for all that they are doing for Veterans,” said MilitaryConnection.com’s CEO Debbie Gregory.