Veterans Village Gives New Hope To Homeless
The grand opening event drew a large crowd of proud contributors to the project, as well as a strong showing of the general public. Many local political leaders appeared to show their support on a proud day for Rancho Cordova.
This phase provides 50 homes for veterans and their families in one and two bedroom homes. The site also utilizes various green technologies such as a solar hot water system, solar electric generation, 100% gray water landscaping irrigation, drought tolerant plants.
Dozens of dignitaries, citizens and news outlets gathered together August 31 for the opening ceremony heralding the newest phase of completion for the Mather Veterans Village, a new concept in housing for our military’s veterans who have found themselves homeless or disabled.
Master of Ceremonies, Doug Shoemaker, President of Mercy Housing California opened the event, which continued with Presentation of the Colors by American Legion, Post 709 and the Pledge of Allegiance.
The multi-million-dollar project was conceived and funded in part by the city of Rancho Cordova, Mercy Housing, Sacramento County, Mogavero Architects and Veterans Resource Centers of America and other charitable groups.
“We as Americans made a promise to these brave veterans,” said Marc Deal, Executive Director for Veterans Resource Centers. “We said, ‘Fight our wars, keep the wolves at bay, stand the wall, and when your watch is done, we will take care of you.’” He continued, “This is the finest example of not only keeping a promise but giving the best gift you can give a veteran: hope.”
One speaker and supporter who saw the need and benefit of Veterans Village back in the concept stage was Ami Bera, MD, Congressman, 7th Congressional District of California and resident of Elk Grove, who stated, “As a doctor, this was a no-brainer. As an American, this was a no-brainer.”
Other speakers included Supervisor Don Nottoli and Rancho Cordova Councilmember and veteran Robert McGarvey, who presented veterans in attendance with lapel pins and his own formal gratitude for their service to their country.
This phase provides 50 homes for veterans and their families in one and two bedroom homes. The site also utilizes various green technologies such as a solar hot water system, solar electric generation, 100% gray water landscaping irrigation, drought tolerant plants. Awnings outside windows also cut down on the summer sun’s rays, saving on utility costs and helping keep the units cool.
“The City of Rancho Cordova is a vibrant community with a strong military heritage that values its veterans,” said Mayor David Sander. “Once the site of an active Air Force base, it is still home to over 5,000 veterans and their families.”
Ten years from concept to opening day ceremonies, ground was broken on the project in late 2014. This current phase is one of three and puts Veterans Village residents in reach of many other badly needed support services, many of which are available at the Veterans Administration Hospital which is just blocks away.
The three-story, garden-style buildings also include 3,500 square feet of meeting rooms, staff offices, kitchen/lounge area, laundry facilities, and a computer lab.
For the opening day ceremonies, several residents opened their homes and gave tours. The apartment homes are light, bright and outfitted with accessible features and modern appliances. For most, this is a far cry from the crime and danger of living on the street.
Many of Veterans Village residents have been hit hard by some of life’s toughest circumstances. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from military service or family loss frequently leave sufferers vulnerable to unhealthy habits and behaviors resulting in drug and alcohol issues, which then become even harder to cope with and overcome.
Viet Nam-era veteran Ernesto Hayles serviced in the Army from 1974-76 and came home to bear the brunt of a nation unhappy about the politics of the conflict. Instead of the thanks of a grateful nation, he was pelted by cries of “baby killer.” After 40 years of suffering he was finally diagnosed with PTSD and began getting the help he needed. Along with his wife Roxanne and service dog Shadow, Ernesto now has access to job training, hope and a safe place to finally call home.
Another resident, George Thomas, whose mother attended, was a speaker at the opening ceremonies. He spoke eloquently about the ongoing struggles veterans face. Losing his father tipped the scales for George and he turned to drugs in an effort to escape the pain. He realized finally that he was not alone. Not only did he still have family members who cared, but that Mather Veterans Village is also his family. He feels he has a new lease on life, as do the other residents, and said, “We have a reason to live.”
The community is being built in three phases on a 3.65-acre site. Comprehensive on-site support services such as health care and wellness programs, veterans’ benefits claims assistance, substance abuse and counseling and support groups, employment services, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services food deliveries and social activities.
With Phase I complete, Phase II will include a 46-bed transitional housing program, the Veterans Resource Center supportive service programs and administrative offices, a commercial kitchen and chef to provide three healthy, delicious meals daily to residents. Phase II will also be the gathering place for the community. Phase III will provide an additional 50 permanent supportive homes on site.
Mather Veterans Village is a place for these wounded warriors to find peace and hope and the help they need and deserve.
The event, which began with a flyover by the West Coast Ravens, concluded with a community prayer, the retiring of the colors and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Light lunch refreshments were also provided for attendees and residents alike.
A true community effort, Mather Veterans Village was developed and designed by Mercy Housing California and Veterans Resource Centers of America. Mogavera Architects, Warren Consulting Engineers and Broward Builders, Inc. Property Management is by Mercy Housing Management and resident services are provided by Veterans Resource Centers of America.
Financing and Community Partners include the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, the City of Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County, the Home Depot Foundation, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, Sacramento Steps Forward, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA Northern California Health Care System and Wells Fargo Bank.
For those seeking more information for themselves or loved ones, the process begins with referrals from community partners or from the homeless veteran himself, next there is an application and screening process through Veterans Resource Center, from there, applications are submitted to Mercy Housing and then continued by Veterans Resource Center and Mather Community Campus.