Though Jon Bon Jovi may be best known for the rock anthem, “Living on Prayer” his alliance with Help USA, real estate developers and the city of Washington DC is making the prayers of 77 homeless veterans come true.
Funding assistance from his JBJ Soul Foundation, has allowed HELP USA, a non-profit social service and housing provider along with developers Urban Atlantic and Hines to create 77 units of “services-enriched” affordable housing for homeless veterans in Washington DC.
In a video, on the JBJ Soul Foundation website, Bon Jovi shared his feelings on creating housing for homeless veterans and youth, “ … A place to sleep is more than just a bed, it ‘s safety, stability and the support needed to accomplish their dreams.”
The site known as “The Parks at Walter Reed” sits on the grounds of the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center which moved to nearby Bethesda, Maryland several years ago. Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement “When the U.S. Army transferred the historic Walter Reed campus to the District, I committed to developing the land with purpose and using it to create the types of housing and resources that our community needs. The campus is already home to two schools and a state-of-the-art fire station, and now we are building on our commitment to support our most vulnerable residents and end homelessness by building new affordable housing for District veterans.”
Help USA’s Chief Housing Officer David Cleghorn said the building being developed for homeless vets is “every bit a mid-seventies looking building on the outside.” However, the renovation on the inside is transforming this old building into something truly amazing.
"We’re giving every unit new kitchens and bathrooms, we’re updating lighting and fixtures and doing things with the colors to really make these places feel like a home," explained Cleghorn. "Then we’re taking part of the entire first floor and creating an administrative and social services wing with a large formal conference room/library for folks to use as a meeting place, and other offices for staff and the social service care providers.”
But in addition to swanky new office spaces, Cleghorn said that the real focus of this renovation is creating spaces that will benefit the residents, “There will be a large community room, dining room and areas with televisions and a fireplace. On another floor, there will be a theater room, another small library/lounge area, exercise room and other public spaces throughout the first 3 floors."
The luxurious spaces sound nice but Cleghorn explained they’re part of an overall care plan, meant to help each resident thrive, “When you’re dealing with a homeless population, you’re dealing with people who have been living in a defensive mode for however long they’ve been on the street or in shelters. They’re worried about violence, they’re worried about the dangers that lurk … so a lot of times they get an apartment, they’ll close the door, lock it and not come back out. We want to encourage them to come out and socialize. The whole design is so the social service staff will be able to see them and they can form connections. And we will have coffee and snacks on all day in the large dining room and fireplace area. So even if people are just sort of sitting around when they first get there, that’s better than them isolating themselves in their room. We’ve put a lot of thought into how we can engage with the residents and help them.”
Tom Hameline, President and CEO, HELP USA added “The Walter Reed campus has a storied history of serving the men and women of our armed forces, and we are proud to be building housing on this site that will continue that tradition. HELP strongly believes that stable housing is the foundation of every other social service. By developing apartments for homeless veterans and providing on-site services we are helping people begin to build better lives.”
Upon completion, “The Parks at Walter Reed” will contain 2,100 residential units, retail space with a grocery store anchor, office space, a hotel, charter schools, medical uses, arts and entertainment uses in addition to 20 acres of open park space.
For information on HELP USA and how to donate click here
To see more of The Parks at Walter Reed click here
To see how the JBJ Soul Foundation and Soul Kitchen are changing lives click here