Dying on the streets is a fate nobody would wish for, let alone expect, particularly a military veteran hailing from one of the wealthiest countries in recorded human history. Sadly, however, for many veterans, this tragic tale is all too common.
The good news is this doesn’t have to be the case. Thanks to innovative ideas and inspiring developments, if people like you voice their support for positive change, cityscapes across the nation could be dotted with modular homes for the tens of thousands of unsheltered homeless veterans in need of help.
Meet Marvin, an 8-year U.S. Army Veteran Now Homeless and Dying in Denver
Imagine striving to join an elite military class, living through 8 traumatizing years of war, only to return to your homeland with no prospects for housing. Eventually, you are forced to sleep on the pavement of the city you once protected.
Such is the harsh reality for Marvin, an elderly disabled U.S. military veteran with a gaping hole in his back and an unfathomable smile still on his face. Marvin is dying from skin cancer. The three skin grafts hollowing out his back are an unsettling sight to behold. He has been homeless for 16 years.
“They gave me disability. $230 a month,” he said in a candid street interview with Invisible People.
Marvin’s attitude is pleasant, but the pain in his eyes is on display for anyone daring enough to acknowledge him. A smile darts across Marvin’s face when he is asked how long he served in the military.
“Eight years, Airborne 101st Division, Screaming Eagles,” he gleams.
To a non-military veteran, the term “Screaming Eagles” might not ring a bell, although perhaps it should.
The U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division is a highly specialized infantry that requires exceptional skills and training and is referred to by historians as both “distinguished,” “elite,” and “one of the most formidable divisions in the U.S. Army today,” according to Spec Ops Magazine.
To diminish such a high-ranking soldier to a $230-a-month disability check and a duffle bag filled with old t-shirts and broken dreams is soul-crushing. Fortunately for Marvin and others like him, public interest in solving veteran homelessness has peaked, and innovative ideas are being drafted and implemented constantly.
Today, we review Philadelphia’s brand-new, 47-unit development known as Veteran’s Village to see how models like this might better serve the homeless veteran community by getting them off the streets and into permanent housing situations.
Addressing Veteran Homelessness with Housing: Here’s A First Look at Philadelphia’s Veteran’s Village
In early February of 2023, a Philadelphia nonprofit known as the VBC Giving Foundation announced its plans to build a 47-unit, garden-style apartment complex featuring modular construction for homeless veterans.
The units would be adorned with modern furnishings that developers described as cost-effective and accommodating. The goal of the project was to address the need for high-quality housing with modular apartments ranging in size from studios up to three-bedroom units. The budget was slated at just $6 million, a fraction of the average cost associated with building a low-income residential community of this size.
The project was off to a grueling start in early 2023. Supply chain issues caused construction delays that pushed the original opening date back. Now that the project is finally off the ground – literally and figuratively, it’s clear that this model could serve as a blueprint for more communities.
Veteran’s Village is located in the Frankford section of Philadelphia.
It stands modest in stature, dwarfed by the nearby high rises and luxury apartment complexes in the distance. Yet, in terms of impact, it is already making a big difference in the lives of local military veterans, many of whom were previously unsheltered but will now have a roof over their heads.
In addition to modest accommodations, the mural-clad building sporting Lady Liberty on its street-facing side also features:
- Weekly programming for veterans hosted by an experienced sergeant
- Wheelchair accessibility
- A community room for meetings
- A green, outdoor communal space
- Bike storage
- Appliances and more
With a low-cost foundation, a safety-infused construction, and a humble mission to end veteran homelessness, housing advocates hail Veteran’s Village as a template for future communities.
Dana Spain, the developer/philanthropist who spearheaded the project, described how her heart went out to homeless veterans when she began working at an all-female homeless shelter in West Philadelphia.
“This just is mind-blowing that the system is really throwing people away, expecting them to get out of poverty and homelessness, and yet, really, they’re putting them back in there,” Spain said in an interview with NBC 10.
Veteran’s Village holds a special place for her as the daughter of a military veteran. This is her very first large-scale project. The community is currently accepting applications.
It should be duly noted that Veteran’s Village is not free housing. It is affordable housing for veterans, many of whom have already paid unfathomable dues during active duty.
Urge Your Legislators to Build Affordable Homes for Unsheltered Veterans. Many of Them are Living on Less Than $230 a Month.
The United States is in a perpetual state of war. Yet, it is one of the only developed countries that treats its soldiers in such an inhumane way as to leave them dying on the streets from treatable diseases and wounds inflicted on the battlefield.
Homelessness isn’t nearly as complicated as mainstream media makes it seem. Much of our veteran homeless problem, and the general homeless problem as well, can be solved through the construction of affordable housing and by making housing a human right. Please talk to your legislators about making plans to build a Veteran’s Village near you.