The area's need for veteran assistance has prompted the launch of ‘SCV Homes for Heroes,’ to meet the needs of the more than 10,000 veterans and their families and build on Habitat for Humanity's model of affordable housing. A kickoff event is planned for November 5 that will involve the entire community.
Many of those veterans have recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan and some face poor living conditions due to financial hardships or disabilities that require modifications to their homes that they cannot afford.
A governing board of community, business and nonprofit organization leaders has been formed and teamed with Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys to create SCV Homes for Heroes. The program will provide affordable housing and connect veterans and their families with resources for education and self-sufficiency.
"The focus of SCV Homes for Heroes will be on ensuring veterans are supported through home modifications, education, and supportive services that will help prevent them from common house-related problems that civilian veterans face," said Donna Deutchman, CEO and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV.
Carl Goldman, KHTS-AM radio co-owner, who along with his wife Jeri Seratti Goldman heads the SCV Homes for Heroes advisory board, adds, "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.”
“We have our first event ready to roll on November 5, and we’re going to make this a community event, that will become an annual event on the Saturday before Veterans Day. We’ll go out and take a home that’s a veteran’s home in need of some kind of refurbishment, and as a community, just like Habitat does nationally with its Brush For Kindness, we’re going to go in and do it as a Homes for Heroes where we retrofit their home,” Goldman said.
This year’s home has not yet been selected, but he indicated that there are a few possibilities under consideration. He was excited to share more details of the program and plans for the future.
“That will become the launch, with the goal of doing 10-12 homes per year of veterans. Phase three of the whole vision of what we’re doing is to build a whole community.
“We want to build a community of homes for vets here in Santa Clarita similar to the Habitat model they’re using for challenged income housing (in the San Fernando Valley). We’ve identified four pieces of land that we’re doing due diligence on, the goal is to get one of those parcels of land and start building the community.”
The four parcels include a 36.6 acre piece north of Bouquet Canyon, south of Copper Hill Drive where 300 units could be built; a 66.8 acre piece adjacent to the Sports Complex and Golden Valley High School where 700 units could be built; a 58 acre piece south of Golden Valley Road, west of Sierra Highway where 850 units could be built and a 23.6 acre parcel east of Sierra Highway, north of Soledad Canyon Road where 200 units could be built.
“There’s a middle phase that opened up because there are so many homes in foreclosure,” Goldman added. “Working with the city, we want to identify two or three of these houses within a one or two mile radius in the city limits in a local neighborhood. We would take the Habitat model, convert those homes, sell those to vets under the Habitat umbrella and use those vets as anchors to refurbish an entire neighborhood that includes non-vets as well.”
The SCV Homes for Heroes' three-phase program includes:
A Brush With Kindness -- Sponsored by Southern California 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.
Veteran “Enriched” Neighborhood -- This phase, which will launch at a later date, will offer life skills to veterans and their families to become self-sufficient. The Enriched Neighborhood model brings social and educational services into a neighborhood. The goal is to build a veteran-specific community in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Goldman says SCV Homes for Heroes is generating strong interest, with several civic, business and community leaders offering to lend their support by serving on its advisory board. Board members include a cross section of leadership in Santa Clarita. To see a complete list of Advisory Board members visit www.habitatscv.org .
"We've been talking to a lot of people about the program and the support has been overwhelming -- everyone wants to know what they can do to help," he adds, noting planned activities include fundraising and seeking contributors from the community.
This Santa Clarita project is being sponsored the Southern California Gas Company and KHTS AM-1220.
The Gas Company has been a past sponsor of Habitat's Brush with Kindness program, including offering employee volunteers and funding to help a local Newhall family rebuild their lives following the October 2007 wildfires.
"SCV Homes for Heroes is unique in that it brings together many different entities with the goal of helping local veterans,” said Mike Mizrahi, regional affairs manager for The Gas Company. “We're thrilled to participate in a program that helps them get their lives back after serving our country.”
For more information about SCV Homes for Heroes, go to www.HabitatSCV.org , or call (818) 884-8808.