Full Funding in Place, Homeless Veterans Village Advances

first_img“The key is to harness all these well-intentioned people and officials who stepped up,” Burry said. “Going forward, I would like to lend assistance with funding for facility projects, both as the county’s representative and a private citizen. I have a personal interest in this and intend to remain connected.” “We are beyond thrilled all the cooperative efforts of the past several years are coming together,” Buckley said. “Lillian Burry was the one who got it going and has been a huge help. We can’t do it by ourselves.” TINTON FALLS – With five funding sources and local approval secured, a new permanent, comprehensive residential community for 70 homeless Monmouth County veterans will adhere to its construction timeline despite the current coronavirus pandemic. By Laura D.C. Kolnoski Earlier this month Gov.Phil Murphy ordered allnonessential constructionhalted in the state as part ofefforts to stem the spread ofCOVID-19. This article originally appeared in the April 16th, 2020 print edition of The Two River Times. The site is adjacent to Fort Monmouth which is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment, transforming the former U.S. Army base into a mix of residential, retail, educational, high-tech, cultural, entertainment and office uses. The 1,126-acre fort spans three municipalities – Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls. Residents, who must go through a process that includes certification and a lottery system, will come from a variety of outreach efforts and referrals from social service organizations. The facility will be called the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community – as are all Soldier On projects – named for a paralyzed Vietnam veteran who became deputy secretary of the Veterans Administration and was instrumental in helping Jack Downing, Soldier On president and founder, open the first such community in Massachusetts. Freeholder Lillian Burry,the county’s representativeon the Fort MonmouthEconomic RevitalizationAuthority (FMERA). LillianBurry thought it would bean “ideal” addition to thefort’s redevelopment. Shecontacted Downing, whomade a presentation toFMERA members. “The $9 million soft loan is a construction loan that gets eliminated with some permanent debt at the end of the project,” Buckley said. “We are fine-tuning construction costs and looking at a projected opening in August/September 2021.” “This is the rest of the story for the fort,” Freeholder Burry said. Potential locations emerged then failed to materialize for a variety of reasons. Donald Burry told his wife, “Don’t give up.” She initially contacted U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4) for support and guidance, and traveled to Trenton with Monmouth County administrator Teri O’Conor to meet with New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver to appeal for grant money. Additional support and encouragement came from county prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni, a U.S. Navy veteran who was born on Fort Monmouth and served in Afghanistan. There are an estimated 300 homeless veterans in Monmouth County. For information about current programs and services available, county residents can contact the county’s Department of Veterans Affairs, visitmonmouth.com.) center_img Baldwin said he’s not done with Soldier On either. “I have spoken to the large veterans group here at Seabrook,” he said. “There might be opportunities for us to help out. I’ll do anything they want me to do. I’m looking forward to it and waiting to get started. Let’s get on with it.” Buckley said the final cost is contingent on potential construction adjustments, like government architects and engineers requesting one type of material over another to save costs. Another factor is materials pricing, which could go up or down as a result of the virus’s long-term effects. Some bids have already been received, Buckley said. The funding includes a $6.5 million Tax Credit Equity from the Bank of America; a $4.1 million Tax Exempt Bond loan from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA); a $9 million soft loan from the NJHMFA; a $1.5 million soft loan from Federal Home Loan Bank of New York; and $369K from Monmouth County, which consists of federal Housing and Urban Development monies passed through and approved by the county’s Community Development program. Offering the Seabrook site from the borough of Tinton Falls were former Mayor Gerald Turning, a voting member of FMERA during his mayoralty, and former borough council president Gary Baldwin, a 26-year Air Force veteran officer, who worked actively on the fort’s redevelopment prior to his retirement in December 2019. Baldwin, who resides at Seabrook, said he is, “ecstatic and delighted” all funding for the project is now secured. Officials estimate fewer than one dozen occupants will be female, attended by all-female staff. Women will be housed in a separate section with its own entrance and amenities. “The average resident has had a number of decompensating events,” Downing said. “When they come into our care, that ceases. We are going to find a way to keep them so they don’t fail. Our ultimate goal is to provide formerly homeless veterans with permanent, supportive, sustainable housing.” Buckley said this will be Soldier On’s largest facility to date, built in cooperation with Winn Companies, a national operator of low-income housing tax credit units. Amenities will include fully furnished units, a multipurpose community room, outdoor patio with grills, a greenhouse and community garden, walking paths and a memorial columbarium where ashes of deceased residents can be interred. Support, therapeutic and life skills programs are of fered, and management teams are on site. Freeholder Burry arranged for resident transportation assistance through the county’s SCAT program. “We don’t anticipate any big impact on the timetable,” said Soldier On CEO Bruce Buckley April 10, days after receiving word of the final funding components. “Affordable housing falls under an essential service. We’ll begin site work when it’s feasible, hopefully in one or two months. We are actively working on it.” COURTESY LILLIAN BURRY Pictured with a rendering of the exterior of the new Soldier On homeless veterans community coming to Tinton Falls are, from left, Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, Soldier On president and founder Jack Downing, former Tinton Falls council president Gary Baldwin and Soldier On CEO Bruce Buckley. Soldier On’s journey to Tinton Falls began with Donald Burry of Colts Neck, a retired Coast Guard captain who read about the organization and told his wife, Monmouth County In December The Two River Times reported exclusively that Soldier On, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization headquartered in Massachusetts, will break ground on a four-story facility this spring. The site is on 11 vacant acres adjacent to the Seabrook Village retirement community on Essex Road. Originally given to the borough by Seabrook’s developer when the village was created, the property was in turn sold to Soldier On for $1. The total project is estimated at $14.7 million. “I started working with Lillian Burry early on,” he said. “After Gerald Turning and I decided to give the 11 acres to Soldier On, Bruce Buckley and Jack Downing visited and loved it. The right thing to do is get these men and women off the street and solve the problem. They need help and guidance. Soldier On is successful in their approach.” last_img