Rather Than Demolish An Old School, Philadelphia Will Turn It Into Apartments For Homeless Veterans

Philadelphia, The City Of Brotherly Love, is really starting to live up to its name. It has been recognized in recent years as a national leader in combatting homelessness for its veteran population.

Since the beginning of 2013, city governmental agencies and advocacy groups have created living space for over 1300 veterans who were formerly been living on the streets.

Julian Castro, US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development said “You have actually done it! You have effectively ended veteran homelessness. The thing is that we can’t stop our work until every single veteran has a place to call home in the United States.”

A partnership between the Philadelphia Housing Authority and an organization called HELP USA is working on a project to convert the historic Spring Garden School into more such housing.

A groundbreaking ceremony on September 23 had city officials and representatives of HELP USA publicly presenting their joint plan for the building that has been unoccupied for more than 40 years

David Cleghorn of HELP USA said “”It would have been far too expensive and a shame to tear it down. We haven’t gotten any pushback or a single negative comment on this project. The building has been an eyesore for a while and a safety issue that needed to be addressed. People are excited about it.”

The building which was constructed in 1927, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, is the fifth project in Philly for HELP USA. so far, the non-profit has invested fifty six million dollars in the city.

The project will yield 37 units of affordable housing for low income seniors, with 12 units specifically earmarked for homeless veterans. The project has a 14.5 million dollar budget, of which 13.7 million has already been secured through grants and private donations.

Cleghorn continued, “All of these projects are immensely successful. Once these vets are in our apartments, they have support services right there on site. What keeps them there is that they really form a community of shared military experience. They look out for one another. They’re happy and proud of where they live, and that makes us happy and proud. Our housing projects in Philadelphia started in the late ’90s. Some are for seniors 55 and up and others are for veterans, many of them formerly homeless and recovering from substance abuse, others with mental health conditions or disabilities. We try to fill needs when there’s a need. We’ve built houses for people with HIV, victims of domestic violence and communities that live with mental health conditions. It’s a no-brainer for veterans. They’ve made sacrifices for us and they deserve to have a place to live. It’s the right thing to do.”

In collaboration with Drexel University and other community partners, HELP USA will provide a range of on-site services including healthcare, counseling, employment and youth mentorship programs. The work should be done around summer of 2017 and it should start receiving its first residents by the end of next year.

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