EL MONTE, Calif. - More than 97,000 homeless veterans, in the United States, struggle with starvation, psychological problems and alcoholism. On March 12, 2014, the city of El Monte took the first step in ending this tragedy, said Juventino Gomez, El Monte Councilman and Vietnam veteran.
Officials with the city of El Monte hosted a grand opening celebration for the first affordable housing community specifically for homeless veterans in the area.
Brigadier Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, 1st Marine Logistics Group Commanding General, addressed the guests on behalf of the Marine Corps and celebrated the opening of the $12 million project with more than 100 veterans and officials. The event featured a flyover by the Condor Squadron, a group of vintage WWII A-6 airplanes, and a performance by the 1st Marine Division band.
"In the Marine Corps, we have over 5,000 additional veterans getting out each year," said Brig. Gen. Coglianese. "We have to take care of them as they leave. We owe them everything we can do to help them get back into society. So it's really an honor to be here today to see such a great community take care of our veterans."
The three-story building includes 40 furnished studio apartments with private balconies. It also includes community-gathering spaces - a community room with a kitchen and lounge area, a computer center, on-site laundry facility, energy efficient design and appliances, community garden, barbecue area and an outdoor stone fireplace.
With the help of New Directions, a well-established nonprofit organization dedicated to serving homeless veterans, the Village also offers veterans case management, health and wellness programs, job training, family reunification and legal services, transportation support and other on-site services for residents.
The event served as a reminder of the high demand for housing for homeless veterans.
"We cannot allow our service men and women, our boys and girls, to go hungry, to go without shelter, to not have anyone to hold them up," said Juventino Gomez, a Vietnam veteran and El Monte councilman, who championed the project from start to finish. "They don't need a hand out they need a hand up. Someone, somehow, needs to take a stand. We need to start fighting for our men and women and really make sure they have all the resources they need; not only today, but tomorrow."