Santa Clarita: It takes a village to house veterans properly
1st Lt. Renard Thomas to be first resident
When U.S. Army 1st Lt., Renard Thomas, 40, and his girlfriend April Benavidez, 35, arrived at the Heroes for Homes ribbon-cutting ceremony, they had no idea how their lives would be changed. Just moments before the celebration, his mortgage application had been approved and as a result he would be the first resident of the Habitat for Heroes Veteran Village.
“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and very excited. It’s an honor and a privilege,” said Lt. Thomas.
The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valley, The Gas Company, and the city of Santa Clarita collaborated to construct the country’s first veteran’s village. More than $21 million has been reserved for qualified veterans in the Santa Clarita and Sylmar areas.
“It’s the first project of its type in California, but we are hoping it won’t be the last,” said Peter J. Gravett, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) and secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. “We expect to begin construction next February and complete this project 12 months later.”
According to CalVet, about 100 homes will be built through this public-private partnership. Only low-income veterans will qualify for these three- and four-bedroom homes.
In addition to the home, the veterans will receive a variety of life-skill managment services.
According to Donna Deutchman, CEO Habitat for Humanity, San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys: “We are the only Habitat in the nation to provide self-sufficiency skills in addition to providing the homes.”
Deutchman is referring to a mentoring program that stays in the community for two years. It teaches money-management skills, educational training, as well as urban community gardening, while providing health service referrals.
Additionally, to reduce the cost of building the homes, veterans are required to provide sweat equity.
Still, at the Center Pointe Property in Santa Clarita, Lt. Thomas, an Iraq war veteran, managed to contain his excitement during the ceremonial announcement. Not even the 106-degree could could cause the significance of the day to wilt.
“This is a great opportunity for veterans to re-establish themselves in the community,” said Benavidez. “I feel very blessed to be apart of it.”
Her boyfriend is the director of Veterans Programs at the College of the Canyons and has worked with Habitat For Humanity on its advisory committee. He learned about the Habitat for Heroes Veterans Village and submitted an application. The criteria included a thorough background check, home visit to assess needs, and a Megan’s Law check.
Eight veterans are under consideration. Veterans must apply to Habitat for Humanity, San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valley, or online at www.HabitatSCV.org.
The project has received particular recognition for meeting specific needs in the areas of affordable housing for veterans. The city of Santa Clarita donated the land for its veteran village.
“In the past, the nation has not done a good job assisting returning veterans from conflicts. “This is a new era, a new day,” said Gravett. “Today, America respects our veterans and honors their service and wants to do something for them.”
There are more than 2 million veterans in California and about 167,000 are women. The Santa Clarita Valley has more veterans—10,000 per capita—than any other California community.
A conversation is currently taking place [at the state government level] about how to help veterans reintegrate with work, school and their families, said Gravett. “Whenever you have government agencies, nonprofits, and corporate America pulling together, we can make anything happen. Therefore, it did not surprise me that this project would be a reality.”
The Asian Boyz bloody murder spree in 1995 and 1996 came to a conclusion this week when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sentenced the final defendant to 218 years to life in state prison.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Los Angeles County’s transportation authority today expanded its effort to avoid complete gridlock on the Westside during the upcoming weekend closure of a section of the San Diego (405) Freeway.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that it will offer free fares on a total of 26 bus lines along major Westside and San Fernando arteries.
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Record and near-record high temperatures are expected around Southern California today and tomorrow, with valley and inland areas forecast to top out in the 90s this afternoon.
High pressure and winds out of the northeast will bring nearly cloudless skies, sunshine and wind advisories for the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.