Published On: July 29th, 2016|678 words|2.4 min read|
When U.S. Navy Veteran Judy Ganino was homeless, she often went days or weeks without having a conversation or any personal interactions.
Now, her days are filled with deep discussion and lively banter with neighbors at the Upper Post Veterans Community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is where Ganino lives today, alongside some 57 Veteran residents in an apartment complex made possible by VA’s Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL) program, operated by the Office of Asset Enterprise Management.
“I’m just very amazed that I talk to people every day,” Ganino said. “It’s just so amazing and so wonderful.”
Giving property a greater purpose
Ganino is just one Veteran among many being touched by the EUL program, a “portfolio management tool” that VA deploys to revitalize underused VA properties—and change the lives of thousands of formerly homeless Veterans.
The EUL program enables VA to solve two issues: affordable, permanent housing for homeless Veterans and their families and the surplus of idle or underused VA property in communities across the United States.
The EUL program allows VA to lease its property to the private sector for approved supportive housing and related projects for Veterans who do not have safe, stable housing. Ganino’s apartment building, for instance, sits on a previously vacant VA site that predates even the incorporation of the state of Minnesota.
EUL projects must provide Veterans with a well-rounded and integrated experience, and so in addition to supportive housing, VA’s EUL partners often offer Veterans services such as job training, financial management, haircuts, computer and laundry facilities, fitness centers and more. Veterans and their families are prioritized for EUL developments, which are also convenient to VA health care facilities.
So far, through the EUL program over 2,200 units of housing for homeless Veterans, Veterans at-risk of homeless, and their families have been constructed nationwide and an additional 500 units are under construction to serve Veterans and their families within the next one to two years. Moreover, we continue working to develop more than 1,500 additional units that in the future will serve Veterans and their families.
In addition to the services and amenities available through EUL housing, Veterans benefit from regular opportunities to interact with each other. Upper Post resident Anthony Williams notes that the camaraderie among residents reminds him of his time in the Navy, when everyone worked together.
Similarly, Earl Burl, a formerly homeless Veteran and peer support specialist at Freedom’s Path Apartments on the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Medical Center campus near Chicago, says Veteran residents help each other.
“It is so valuable when they’re interacting with one another and learning about different programs that VA might offer,” Burl says, noting that “when [they] get [advice] from a Vet, from a peer, they tend to believe it.”
“Living here—this is a blessing,” adds Marine Corps Veteran Emanuel Yates, who lives at Freedom’s Path. “You know, it’s more than just about having somewhere to sleep,” he explains in the video. “It’s about having somewhere where I feel safe; it’s about having somewhere where I feel supported; it’s about being a part of something.”
Encourage Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to call or visit their local VA Medical Center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or ask them to call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
James M. Sullivan is director of VA’s Office of Asset Enterprise Management. He oversees VA’s capital asset portfolio and ensures that capital investments fully support the agency mission by effectively managing VA’s inventory, making housing available for homeless Veterans through Enhanced-Use Leases, greening VA’s portfolio, making prudent investments, measuring performance, and disposing of or reusing assets that are no longer needed.