By Ted AYALA
The war that veterans face doesn’t end with the battles they fight in their tours of duty, according to some grim statistics. According to Gregory C. Scott, president and CEO of New Directions for Veterans, over 700,000 veterans are homeless. Of those, he noted, nearly 10% live in Los Angeles County.
At a plot of land off of W. Salem Street near Downtown Glendale, Scott’s organization, along with the city of Glendale, is hoping to take a stand to help stem those disturbing numbers.
Joining Scott were members of the Glendale City Council for a groundbreaking ceremony at what will be called Veteran’s Village, a 44-unit affordable housing complex aimed at helping veterans live normal lives.
“I’m so proud to be seeing this happening,” said Councilmember Frank Quintero, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “This isn’t just about affordable housing. It’s also about the social component, of helping treat our veterans with the care and assistance they need to be part of civilian life.”
For Quintero the issue hits close to home. After spending a few years working corporate jobs, Quintero became a counselor for veterans. For the next 28 years, he was involved in veterans’ affairs and saw firsthand the problems that veterans face on the home front.
“It’s a long, difficult uphill battle they face,” he said in a speech. “What has happened is a tragedy. So we have a lot of work to do.”
“In Glendale, we’ve built over 12,000 affordable housing units since 1975,” said Mayor Dave Weaver, another Vietnam War veteran. “We cannot build enough of this kind of housing. The need is so great.”
Veteran’s Village will be the first such complex, the mayor added, that would specifically cater to veterans.
“I’m very happy about this project,” he said. “There isn’t enough done for veterans. I hope that this encourages other cities to follow our lead. So many veterans emerge from war to return to a different world. What do they do? But this will help.”
The path to the groundbreaking has been a rocky one.
The site chosen for Veteran’s Village had originally been designated for another affordable housing complex named Central City Lights. That concept foundered when the original developer, Advanced Development and Investment, Inc. (ADI), abruptly pulled out of the project. Glendale subsequently sued ADI for fraud.
A second developer attempted to resuscitate the project, but was turned down by the city.
It was with the current developer, Thomas Safran & Associates, that the original concept became what is now Veteran’s Village.
“Our hope is that every unit gets occupied by veterans,” said Safran. “The demand for this kind of housing is unbelievable.”
Among other housing sites developed by Safran’s firm is The Gardens on Garfield complex on 303 E. Garfield Ave., which Councilmember Laura Freidman praised for its aesthetic beauty.
“I know [Safran] is going to build something just as wonderful here,” she said.
Another obstacle the project has had to surmount has been the end of redevelopment agencies. Monies to fund the $15 million project had to be sourced from elsewhere, and are often difficult to procure amid budget cuts. Federal tax credits helped move construction forward.
“A lot of the challenges we have without redevelopment, with the cuts we’ve seen to community block grants … means we’ll have to do a lot better,” said Congressman Adam Schiff. “Because we’re still going to have a lot of veterans in need of help.”
Units will range from one to three-bedroom units. Recreational and therapeutic amenities will also be available to residents.
Veteran Village’s is scheduled to open June 2015.