Valor Home for homeless veterans plans to open in Akron in December
Akron Beacon Journal
AKRON, Ohio — The homeless veterans who will move into Valor Home in December or early January will arrive with complex issues.
“It is so complicated and so layered,” said David Peacock, a native of England, who took part in a tour of the building Tuesday with a number of people tied to the $1.4 million project at 1121 Exeter Road, off East Waterloo Road in Akron.
“You might have an addiction problem, you may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, your family could have broken up, you may have had your home repossessed, you don’t see your kids anymore,” said Peacock, a 52-year-old veteran of the Royal Marines who is program director of Valor Home.
“It goes on and on, and you might have one or all of those, and to be able to have somewhere like this to process it is really, really important.”
Along with a grant of about $900,000 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the project also will receive a $474,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, a commercial bank that is obligated under its charter to make commercial grants for affordable housing projects amounting to 10 percent of its profits, said John Byczkowski, assistant vice president of communications for the bank.
Valor Home received a $474,000 loan from the Huntington National Bank to cover costs of the project until the $474,000 grant from the Cincinnati bank is received upon completion of construction, said William C. Shivers, president of the Akron/Canton region of Huntington.
“We think it’s the right thing to do to give back to the community,” Shivers said of the project.
Testa Builders is the general contractor.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reported in September that on a single night in 2011, a national count of homeless veterans totaled 67,495 — a 12 percent reduction from 76,000 in 2010. The VA also reported that as part of the Obama administration’s five-year plan to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015, the federal agency has committed nearly $1 billion for programs that prevent and treat the many issues that can lead to homelessness.
Matthew Slater, director of veterans services for Family & Community Services Inc. of Portage County, the agency that will operate Valor Home, said the organization is still seeking about $75,000 in naming rights for 23 of the 58 rooms in the building.
Numerous foundations, companies, churches and individuals have contributed money for naming rights of rooms at Valor Home, including foundations from the families of two Marines killed in Iraq: Marine Cpl. Joseph Tomci of Stow and Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Nathan Deyarmin Jr. of Tallmadge.
The cost to sponsor one of the 38 residential bedrooms is $3,000, Slater said.
He said his organization expects operating costs of the facility to be more than $400,000 a year, and it is seeking an additional $75,000 a year for operating expenses.
Family & Community Services will receive almost $40 per day per resident from the VA to pay for operations at Valor Home. Other operations funding will come from the United Way of Summit County. The agency also hopes to receive some Summit County governmental funding and assistance from local veterans groups, and it plans to hold fundraising events.
Residents will not be charged to live there, Slater said. He said the shelter will employ 10 full-time people.
Family & Community Services also operates Freedom House, another homeless veterans facility, in Kent.
Once Valor Home opens, residents will undergo two 12-week programs dealing with a variety of topics, Slater said. Residents can live at the home for up to two years, but typically veterans should be able to move out within six to nine months, he said.
Peacock, a drama therapist, said he hopes the new facility will deal with both the head and the heart as residents receive a variety of treatments and programs.
“A lot of these guys have been homeless a number of times,” he said.
A meditation room, that will be located in the central part of the facility, will deal with spiritual issues. Residents also will receive “horticultural therapy” by working gardens on the 9-acre lot, Peacock said.
His wife, Lisa Peacock, who runs the Women Warriors Project and the Vet Art Project, will teach drama and art therapy classes at Valor Home.
Help from volunteers
Earlier this year, 253 volunteers from Habitat for Humanity of Summit County donated 6,264 hours framing and installing inside and outside walls of the building and assisted on roofing the facility, said Rochelle Fisher, president and CEO of the local Habitat agency.
Still to be resolved, Slater said, is working with the city to install a cut through from West Waterloo Road across Exeter Road for automobile access to the shelter.
Slater said the Valor Home Project is a perfect example of how the private and public sectors can come together. “That is what it takes to help heal our veterans,” he said.
Volunteer Committee Chairman Bob Wilkinson, 63, a Marine Vietnam veteran, said he expects the bulk of veterans served will be Vietnam veterans, but many will be the new generation of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Wilkinson called the nearly completed facility and the volunteer effort to plan and build it both terrific and amazing. He said the goal is to reach veterans at their core. “A lot of programs focus on physical and mental needs,” he said.
Slater said more volunteers will be needed in November to paint interior walls. To help, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.