Encinitas ocean front

Veteran’s Day—Homes Serving Those That Served

Norman enlisted in the Marines as soon as he finished high school. “I would have signed up sooner, but they wouldn’t take me any younger than that,” he says proudly. It was 1956 when he enlisted. He enjoyed serving his country and was stationed in the Middle East and Lebanon. In 1959 he reentered into civilian life. After his service to the country, he was ready for a new challenge so Norman went west.

Going West

Norman photo with flagThrough mutual veteran acquaintances, he had met a group of guys out one evening that said they were driving to California, and he figured ‘why not,’ and joined them on their road trip. It was a vacation for them, but for Norman, it was a one-way trip to his new life in California. LA was where he first settled. Moving to a new place without friends or family is never easy, but Norman didn’t find it too difficult. He landed a job on the famed U2 project with Lockheed Martin, and after that he started his own business importing art and framing materials from all over the world. He loved living in California and didn’t ever want to leave.

Eventually, after a long career, he decided it was time to retire. Through word of mouth, he heard about Mercy Housing’s new property in Encinitas, CA, Cantebria Senior Homes. It’s close to the ocean, has good weather, and is a short distance to shops. When Norman moved into Cantebria community when it first opened 15 years ago, he said it was “beautiful like the [San Diego] Coronado bridge with its tall and clean white walls and columns.” It has proven to be the perfect place for him to retire. As a voracious reader, he’s thrilled that his home is close to the library where he can pursue his passion for metaphysics literature. He’s even met and befriended many of his favorite authors from book signings and literary events.

Veteran Housing

Unfortunately, Norman’s story isn’t the norm for all veterans. Though many veterans find success, there are still far too many veterans experiencing homelessness. According to HUD, 62,619 veterans are homeless on any given night, with the largest portion of those in California. That means 1 out of every 5 people experiencing homelessness are veterans.

What’s difficult about addressing veteran homelessness is that there isn’t just one sole cause. Veterans are statistically more likely to have a disability or illness that affects their mobility and job opportunities, and consequently, housing options. Some combat veterans are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which also makes stable employment and housing a challenge. The lack of adequate affordable housing only compounds these issues. Additionally, not one state has an adequate supply of affordable housing and the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the country has a shortage of over seven million affordable homes.

The tools we have as a nation to ensure that all veterans have a place to call home are helping, but at current levels, aren’t enough. These tools include partnerships between nonprofits and various other organizations that serve veteran populations ranging from healthcare institutions, Veterans Affairs, and various others. Partnerships are essential. Mercy Housing depends on partners to help us better serve veterans that are struggling to find stable affordable housing.

Mercy Housing’s Impact on Veteran Housing

Mercy Housing has three communities in California that serve formerly homeless veterans exclusively, with four more in the pipeline for development that will serve veterans and veteran families. Thousands more call Mercy Housing home across the country at communities that serve seniors and families.

american flag draped across house

‘A place to call home’ means affordability and more than just a roof and four walls. Mercy Housing’s Resident Services have proven to help people pursue better career opportunities, education, and age in grace. These Resident Services come in many forms, from balance classes for seniors to substance use help for those battling addiction. Each and every community is unique, and classes are curtailed to meet site-specific needs. Norman says that he “attends as many of the [Resident Services] classes as I can, and Eric [the Resident Services Coordinator] is wonderful. He’s so good with all the seniors here.”

Mercy Housing doesn’t see these Resident Services as something extra, but rather essential. Doug Shoemaker, Mercy Housing California President says “serving veterans is incredibly important for Mercy Housing. We don’t just build homes, we build a sense of community—to do that, we must ensure that veterans have a home. They served our country and have the potential to share that sense of duty and service with us at home. We must find ways to better serve veterans who need a stable affordable home.”

Veterans like Norman, veterans that had promising careers and fulfilling retirements share something in common, a place to call home. When veterans go without a home, it’s a disservice to them and the society that they served.