St. Lucie Habitat helps homeless Vets - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

St. Lucie Habitat helps homeless Vets

FORT PIERCE, FL (WFLX)  The government estimates as many as 19,000 Florida veterans are homeless. Now, a unique local effort is underway to help make a dent in those numbers and fill some abandoned properties at the same time.

The program works very similar to the way the traditional Habitat for Humanity program works, right down to the volunteers who help build the houses. It's called the Veterans Housing Program of St. Lucie County. Scott Anderson and Garrett Grabowski of St. Lucie Habitat started it just weeks ago to help those who've helped us since World War II.

"We can put our resources together to do something great to help a lot of people," explained Grabowski, the executive director of the Veterans Housing Program. "What better way to help people than to help those who provided our freedoms for us."

"There's a need for a lot of older veterans who just are not living in conditions that they should be living in," added Scott Anderson, the vice president of fundraising for the group.

Volunteers will build or renovate single family homes for military families and renovate foreclosed condos and townhomes for senior veterans. Homes can even be tailored to meet disabled veterans' needs. To be eligible, vets must meet St. Lucie County's affordable housing requirements and have served their country honorably. Navy veteran Chet White says he's honored to help.

"These men and women, my heart goes out to them for the struggle they have living and trying to find a place to stay," he said.

Unlike the traditional Habitat for Humanity program, veterans can be previous homeowners and don't necessarily have to put in the sweat equity of working on their own new home.

"My personal feeling is if somebody is an honorably discharged veteran, they've put in their sweat equity," said Anderson. "They might not have done it on a house, but they did it for the country."

Anderson estimates it will cost as little as $18,000 dollars to renovate a new condo or townhome, something that can change a veteran's life. He's hoping other communities will start similar programs.

"I'd love it to go nationwide," he said. "Let's get the country putting veterans in homes. We have no limitations on the number of people we can help. It's just a matter of funding on one side and volunteers on the other. Unfortunately, the need on behalf of veterans is larger than we'll ever be able to eradicate."

To learn more about applying for the program, volunteering or donating, go to www.vhpslc.com.

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