Construction Resumes On Houses for Homeless Veterans

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Construction resumed Friday on the renovations of five Winston-Salem houses, which soon will be homes to at least 10 currently homeless veterans in the Triad community.

Whole Man Ministries of Forsyth County launched the project, called "Homes For Our Heroes," two years ago. Initially, the goal was for the houses to be finished and ready for veterans to move into on Veterans Day 2013. But, Whole Man Ministries lead pastor Barry Washington said a lead abatement and rotted floor joists caused unforeseen setbacks and a stretched budget, which has been reliant on community donations.

Washington compared the unexpected renovation problems as a positive affirmation of why the project even exists. "In the homes, I see a character of a homeless veteran," he said.

Whole Man Ministries rev. Kenneth Holly further reiterated the houses are one step toward curbing the population of homeless veterans in the community. According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, 12 percent of the country's homeless population are veterans, and more than 57,000 are without homes every night.

Alfonso Boyd, a marine veteran who is helping with the Homes for Our Heroes project, explained many military personnel who come home from deployments often do not have access to, or are too proud to seek, existing resources. He said he believes the current controversy surrounding the VA wait times has dealt a further blow to veterans' trust in government aid.

Washington and Holly said they believe these perceptions of distrust or unawareness are why only two veterans are currently on the list of candidates under consideration to receive the houses. Holly said some homeless veterans might not want to inquire about the houses until they can see "the finished product." Holly said the two veterans who are on the list, however, have been assisting with renovating the houses and have been spreading the word about the project.

Of the five houses under renovation on Cameron Avenue, three are duplexes and can house a maximum of two veterans and their spouses. The other two houses are intended for low-income families of veterans, explained Washington.

To inquire about candidacy for the houses, people are encouraged to contact Whole Man Ministries, the Bethesda Center or the Prosperity Center for referral. Washington and Holly reiterated some homeless veterans might first need transitional housing and other programs, like substance abuse treatment or counseling, before moving into permanent housing.

Holly said the new cost estimate for the renovations of the five houses is $657,000 -- far more than initially expected. To assist with donations or to volunteer for Homes for Our Heroes, contact Whole Man Ministries.

Interested community members also can attend a fundraising "fun run" June 21. Events begin at 8 a.m. Register here, on the organization's web page, for the run.

Washington said the new project completion goal is for one house to be move-in ready by July 4 and for the others to be ready by Veterans Day 2014.


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