Low-income Veteran Families to Move Into First-of-its-kind Community in Sylmar

Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys (SF/SCV) in collaboration with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) has completed a 12-home Habitat Enriched Neighborhood™ for low-income veterans and their families. Habitat SF/SCV and CalVet will be hosting a Key Ceremony and Home Dedication event April 12 2014 at 11 am at the neighborhood site in Sylmar.

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Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) April 07, 2014

The Hernandez family cannot wait to move out of their two bedroom apartment and into their very first home. Effrain, an Army veteran, and Valerie, an Army National Guard veteran, and their three daughters, Cecelia (7 yrs.), and twins, Carmen and Cristine (5 yrs.), will be one of the 12 very-low income families to move into a first-of-its-kind Habitat Enriched Neighborhood™ for veterans in Sylmar, CA this April.

The Habitat Enriched Neighborhood™, named “Sylmar Habitat for Heroes”, was built by Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys (SF/SCV) in collaboration with the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet). It is the first community in the nation to provide homeownership to very-low income veteran families in a neighborhood context that also provides wrap-around social services free of charge to the families. These services, provided through partnerships with other local non-profits and businesses, include financial and health education, health screenings, and self-sufficiency training. Also unique are the services provided that meets the specific needs of the veteran community. These include art workshops for trauma victims, PTS counseling, FOCUS training, and ensuring connections to all entitled military benefits.

On April 12, 2014, at 11 am Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV and CalVet will host a Home Dedication/Key Ceremony at the Sylmar Habitat for Heroes site where the families will get the keys to their homes. Secretary General, Peter Gravett of CalVet and Los Angeles City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes will attend and speak at the event.

A program of this nature meets a dire need in Los Angeles County and Sylmar specifically. Los Angeles County has the highest number of veteran residents in the State and the LA Times reported that Sylmar has one of the country’s highest percentages of veterans who have served in conflicts. Many of these veterans are returning home to unemployment or the inability to work due to a service related disability. Still others are working but not making enough to move their family out of their substandard housing and have suffered severe credit debt issues as a result of service related medical needs in the face of two-year delays in obtaining VA benefits, fiduciary abuse, or other factors while overseas. As a result of these struggles many veterans are finding themselves in an endless cycle of poverty and struggle, living “hand-to-mouth”, getting deeper into debt.

In addition, home ownership opportunities are at an all-time low. Homeownership has been shown to have a positive outcome not only on the families moving into the homes but the community as a whole. When people move from renting to owning a home, they’re more likely to vote, get involved in community groups, and care about their home’s appearance. The children of homeowners do 23% better in school, according to a 2001 study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. And, research has found that having achieved the important life goal of buying a home and having greater control over one’s living environment seems to improve self-reported quality of life as a whole. Affordable home buyers who are able to make their home payments have increased levels of self-esteem as compared to renters.

Especially important for veterans, they tend to expand their social support networks, which in turn have a strong connection to psychological and physical benefits.

As a response to this need, the “Sylmar Habitat for Heroes” program was created to provide affordable homes for very-low income veterans and their families and also offer them the services and training needed to get out of poverty and move up into the middle class. Through this collaboration, low-income veterans qualify for four-bedroom homes, which they 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).

The Habitat for Humanity second loan is the key to making these homes affordable to low income veterans. On pay-back funds will be reinvested into Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV’s efforts to build more homes for low-income veteran families and those in dire need of housing.

CalVet selected Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV to collaborate with because of their Habitat Enriched Neighborhood model™, a model designed by and unique to the San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valley affiliate. The Habitat Enriched Neighborhood™ provides veterans not only with a homeownership opportunity which they would not otherwise be able to afford given their low income status, but also with enrichment services. These services are specifically designed to empower them with the knowledge, education and social services they require to become healthy and self-sufficient so that they can leverage their homeownership into a more economically advanced future for themselves and their children.    

This will be the first veteran-specific Habitat Enriched Neighborhood™ in the Country, but Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV has been tracking the results of this neighborhood wrap-around service program in their non-veteran-specific Enriched Neighborhoods™ and results are outstanding.

Of the over 200 people currently in the program Habitat SF/SCV found 99.9% High School graduation rates, with 91% of kids going on to college or trade school and 46% of those at a four-year universities, 0% teen pregnancy rates after moving into the Habitat homes, 13.9% of parents have returned to school to advance employment, and there have been no foreclosures.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV, visit http://www.HumanityCa.org.

Home Dedication/Key Ceremony: April 12, 2014 at 11 am at the Sylmar Habitat for Heroes Enriched Neighborhood™ site – 14540 Foothill Blvd., Sylmar, CA 91342.