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New Supportive Housing for Homeless Vets Opens in Auburn Gresham

By: Carl Vogel
Published: February 20, 2015

A grand opening in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood this morning celebrated a new chapter for more than 50 homeless veterans, men who have found life difficult after their service to our country.

Veterans New Beginnings is a four-story, supportive housing development that will provide case management, substance abuse counseling, GED preparation classes, vocational training and more for the residents. It’s an important job. Across the country, nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to a 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The focus is to get them back on their feet, get a job and move out to their own place,” said Stan Smith, the president of New Pisgah Community Service Organization (NPCSO), which developed Veterans New Beginnings, located next door to the New Pisgah Baptist Church at 8132-8152 South Racine. “Once you meet these guys we’re helping and hear their stories—it’s amazing to be able to help.”

The project fits into a list of strategies outlined in Auburn Gresham’s 2005 Quality-of-Life Plan, which includes developing new housing to accommodate all levels of income and those who have special needs. Supportive housing and special housing developments are cited as opportunities to ensure Auburn Gresham can “meet the full range of needs in the community.”

Typical for an affordable housing project, Veterans New Beginnings was conceived thanks to a mix of programs and funding streams, including a pre-development loan from LISC Chicago made possible with BMO Harris funding, equity investment from the National Equity Fund, a BMO Harris construction loan and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the city and state.

Although NPCSO has built several other affordable housing developments in the community, this is the first time it has used the relatively complex LIHTC program.

Barbara Beck, LISC Chicago’s director of financial services and underwriting said, “The veteran’s home is a great example of how LISC Chicago’s lending fills an important role in the city’s affordable housing landscape. We were able to provide the initial funding that wouldn’t have been available from a traditional lending institution.”

"Without LISC, it would have been a struggle to do this building, almost impossible."

“Without LISC, it would have been a struggle to do this building, almost impossible,” Smith said. “We were asked by the city to build this with the tax credits, but to qualify, we had to do a ton that required us to pay up front—architects, surveys, lawyer retainers. We used that [pre-development loan] to start everybody and get going. I can’t say enough good things about LISC and NEF, which held our hand every step of the way.”

With just a few last papers to sign and forms to submit, the first 54 residents will move into their fully furnished, one-bedroom apartments in Veterans New Beginnings next week. Smith said that they’re going to love the barbeque pit, the pool hall, the patio and a community room that’s been built as “a man cave.”

“The case workers say, ‘You know we’re crazy if we think that anyone is going to want to ever leave this place,” he said with a laugh. “But we tell the residents, you can always come back and participate. We’ll have an alumni card so they can continue to be a part of it all.”

Posted in Areas of Work, Neighborhoods

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