House of Valor dedicated, ready to shelter homeless vets
By ALICIA ADAMS | Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach | Published: September 1, 2018
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — After many months of hard work and planning, the House of Valor is ready to serve as a sanctuary to homeless veterans.
Gregg Chapel AME Church and Fort Walton Beach-based nonprofit Third Chance Inc. hosted an open house and dedication ceremony Friday afternoon for the new six-unit, 3,000-square-foot living facility at 10 Nicholson St. that will provide housing for homeless, male vets.
"If there is no home, they cannot get started," a tearful Rev. Cecil Williams told the crowd gathered in front of the apartments. "There's no address to get jobs. There's no place to store food."
When church members Nathaniel Smith Jr. and Mary Stevenson unveiled the large granite sign in front of the House of Valor, Smith broke down in tears when he saw his name at the top.
"Mr. Smith is (a) retired (pararescueman), retiring from Hurlburt Field," Williams said as he detailed Smith's dedication to the military. "He's been an integral part of the life of Greg Chapel AME Church, and many lives in our community have been blessed by his generosity."
Gregg Chapel, which has been providing care for the homeless for more than 20 years, owns the property. The group broke ground on the complex in December 2017.
The House of Valor is part of the multi-faceted Lazarus Project that involves community partners providing clothing, counseling, job opportunities and other assistance to the men who will live in the apartments.
"You know the story of Lazarus – going into death and Jesus raising him again," Williams said. "That's been our goal, to make this a Lazarus Project."
The House of Valor cost about $500,000, which included demolishing two old homes on the site as well as construction, infrastructure and landscaping. Much of the funding came from a loan from a local bank.
The largest donation to date for the overall initiative was a $250,000 grant from the Okaloosa County Community Development Corp. Other funding included $34,333 from last year's Gulf Power Clay Shoot for America's Heroes event in Pace.
Other than paving and some landscape work, the project is complete.
The Pensacola-based nonprofit organization 90Works will choose the residents to live in the House of Valor. Monthly rent for the veterans will be about $500, most of which will be paid through veteran vouchers.
Currently, the facility is home to five formerly homeless veterans – almost at full capacity.
One of those residents is Kenneth Ruffin, who served in the Army for three years and was homeless for nine months before moving into the House of Valor last month.
"I can't thank Gregg Chapel enough for what they have done," Ruffin said as he started to cry. "Without them, I don't think I would have had this start. I am grateful for them for that.
"For them to allow us to have a place to stay and rebuild our lives is amazing. ... I want to thank (Williams) again for following the vision that God gave him. Without God, none of this would be possible."
(c)2018 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.)
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