New Mexico State offers nation's first family housing for veterans

By LINDSEY ANDERSON | Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M. | Published: January 26, 2013

LAS CRUCES, N.M.  — History is being made and repeated on Standley Drive.

New Mexico State University will be the first university in the country to offer housing specifically designated for student veterans that isn't dorms or fraternity-style housing, according to school officials.

"I feel like it's going to give veterans as a whole a better chance to feel like they'll be accepted here on campus," said NMSU Student Veterans Association President Tony Cano, who will move into one of the houses.

But the students won't be the homes' first veteran residents. NMSU built its family housing after World War II, when the GI Bill let veterans go to college, NMSU Housing Director Julie Weber said.

"It's similar now with the new GI Bill," expanded in the late 2000s, she said.

Eight houses will be available to veterans on the 1500 block of Standley beginning Friday.

The houses will help veterans transition to university life and create a supportive environment, Student Veterans Association Vice President Andrea Sandoval said.

Three or four veterans have expressed interest and some six more have inquired about possible housing in the future, Weber said.

Many of the school's 1,300 student veterans have families, Weber said, hence choosing family housing for veterans. The houses are one-story and accessible to veterans with mobility issues. All eight homes are on Standley so residents can support each other and build a sense of community, she said.

Veterans without families can apply for the houses, like Cano. That's helpful for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or if they don't want to deal with roommates who may be younger or don't understand their experiences, Cano said.

"It's going to give them the privacy they need," he said.

The two-bedroom cinder-block houses, painted various shades of tan and salmon, sit on a street where two dogs chase each other around a yard, Valentine's Day hearts decorate one front window and bikes and trampolines adorn the lawns.

NMSU painters Braulia Herrera and Tito Vasquez prepped the inside of one house Friday to the tune of Bruno Mars's "Locked out of Heaven." They've painted two units already, Herrera said.

Next door is the community garden, green heads of lettuce budding and tall sunflowers dead in the winter. A child's pink bike with training wheels is parked nearby.

The units have two small bedrooms; a yard "bigger than your house," as Weber said, with a clothesline; a bathroom; kitchen with refrigerator and stove; closets; and a small nook originally designed for rotary phones. Now, some residents stick a phone book there, Weber said.

"While it may not be the Taj Mahal, it is a good option," Sandoval said.

Rent is $630 per month, including cable, Internet and utilities. GI Bill funds help most veterans pay rent, Cano said.

With Fort Bliss, White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base nearby, Weber said, "there is no reason we shouldn't be one of the most veteran-friendly campuses."


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