FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2011
AFTER SCHUMER PUSH, HOMES FOR HEROES READY TO BEGIN CONSTRUCTION OF 8 APARTMENT UNITS FOR HOMELESS VETERANS; SENATOR HELPS SECURE LEASE EXTENSION CRUCIAL TO ROCKLAND ORGANIZATION’S SUCCESS
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the General Services Administration (GSA) have heeded his call and granted Homes for Heroes (H4H) in Rockland a 14 month lease extension on their Rockland property, which is a crucial step that allows Homes for Heroes to begin construction of 8 apartment units for homeless veterans. At the time of Schumer’s April 27th visit, Homes for Heroes was in the middle of a short-term 5-year lease with HHS and GSA that required construction on homes for veterans to be completed after 3 years. Due to the economic downturn, Homes for Heroes had difficulty raising necessary funds for the new construction and met delays, but was on the verge of breaking new ground and moving forward. However, the three year deadline was set to fall before the completion of the construction, and Homes for Heroes faced the possibility of breaking their lease agreement. Now that the 14 month lease has been extended, Homes for Heroes can move forward with their critical mission of constructing apartment units for homeless veterans in the region. Schumer applauds HHS and GSA’s decision to grant this waiver and allow construction to move forward, and plans to continue working with Homes for Heroes to look for opportunities to ensure long term financing moving forward.
“The bottom line is that even one homeless veteran is too many,” said Schumer. “Homes for Heroes provides housing for our nation’s homeless veterans, and I am thrilled that the Department of Health and Human Services and the General Services Administration has granted a lease extension that will put shovels in the ground to construct those homes, and will allow this critical project to move forward. Homes for Heroes is doing incredible work, and I vow to continue working with H4H to ensure long-term financing in the future, so that this Rockland organization can fulfill its mission to serve our heroes for years to come.”
Homes for Heroes is a Rockland County-based program geared toward expanding housing and rental housing assistance for disabled veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that approximately 200,000 adult veterans live on the streets or in shelters on any given day, and nearly twice as many are homeless at some point during the year. In an April 27, 2011 letter coinciding with a visit to Homes for Heroes, Schumer pushed HHS and GSA to come to a new lease agreement with the Rockland Housing Action Coalition (RHAC) that would allow H4H to move forward in securing private investment and constructing homes for veterans. At that time, Homes for Heroes was 3 years into a 5 year lease that required construction to be completed within the first three years of the lease. However, due to the economic downturn, H4H met delays in fundraising, which pushed back construction. With H4H ready to break ground at the time of Schumer’s visit, he pushed HHS to extend Homes for Heroes’ lease and the project deadline, so that the organization could avoid breaking its lease agreement, and continue on its mission to house homeless veterans.
Homes for Heroes plans to construct rental units on six of the thirteen acres and will include the rehabilitation of one or two buildings presently standing on the property. The project, aided by a nearly $1 million federal grant Senator Schumer helped to secure, ultimately aims to construct 50 handicapped accessible, garden-style apartments, a community center and offices for agencies that will provide support services to the resident veterans. RHAC entered its land lease agreement in partnership with Joseph’s Homes to transform the property into permanent, supportive housing for disabled veterans and their families.
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services leased thirteen acres of surplus U.S. Army Reserve property (known as Camp Shanks) to the Rockland Housing Action Coalition (RHAC) for the purpose of building and operating permanent, supportive housing for disabled veterans and their families, who are unable to either purchase homes or find suitably-equipped rental units at market prices. Camp Shanks was the largest World War II army embarkation camp in the United States. Over 1.3 million soldiers went through the camp, also known as “Last Stop USA,” for processing before being deployed to Europe.