Safeguarding Those Who Safeguard
By Andrew McCawley, President and CEO, the New England Center for Homeless Veterans November 04, 2015 06:00 PM
Like most Americans, the Board of Directors and staff at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans believe that no one who has served this country should find themselves without a home in this country
Five years ago, on any given night more than 75,000 veterans in this country were experiencing homelessness. Through a combined federal, state and local focus, this number has been cut in half, but there are still too many former servicemembers experiencing that disruptive and disabling condition known as homelessness.
During the three decades that I had the honor of serving in the U.S. Navy, I found that one of the most compelling and rewarding elements of my experience was the opportunity to work with, and alongside so many young Americans. Most of those dedicated young people did not come from privilege or advantage, but never-the-less they were committed to their country and to their shipmates, and they took on incredible responsibilities and rose to and overcame every challenge, adversity and danger.
For the past four years I have had the honor to lead and be part of the team at the New England Center and Home for Veterans here in Boston.
The Center has been serving Boston’s and the entire nation’s veterans for more than 25 years. It really is a regional and national resource that is available to all veterans. It serves over 1,500 individual veterans every year in some capacity, and on any night, there are more than 300 veterans living here in transitional, emergency, or permanent supportive housing.
The veterans who reside at the Center and have a lease for one of our apartments, are able to live independently and maintain convenient access the Center’s and neighboring services. Our 17 Court Street building, in downtown Boston, is ideally situated, close to both community support and to veteran-specific support facilities. The location has been demonstrated to be ideally situated for providing permanent supportive housing.
We dreamt of capitalizing on our prime location by adding more housing here, and in particular we wanted to reconfigure the building to add permanent housing for female veterans, something we lacked. This is very important as in just a few years; women will comprise almost 20 percent of our nation’s veterans.
Our historic building downtown also needed new infrastructure and modifications to make it more accessible for all veterans. The planned project’s complexity and the significant price tag, budgeted at more than $31 million, meant we needed experienced partners to get this done.
Greg Goldberg of Citi Community Capital led a team of some 20 Citi colleagues who helped us meet short deadlines and demands that could have stopped us. Citi provided us a $20 million construction bridge loan to finance construction, and they also arranged tax credits from the federal low-income housing tax credit program and from the historic tax credit program, which become permanent equity that will support the center’s mission.
Now in construction, our reimagined and new facility will be a wonderful home for more veterans and a sustainable and adaptable resource center where any veteran can access an array of support services. Along with dozens of new apartments and a completely separate facility for female veterans, it will feature a modern medical clinic and a new training school. We will have all the things that are necessary to support the veterans we serve today, and the building will stand as a valuable resource for this nation’s veterans, for generations into the future.
I am grateful to be able to say, with the help of Citi Community Capital we are now closer than ever to our goal of ensuring that all our veterans who put their lives at risk to protect this country and our freedoms, will have a home in the U.S.