Ben Carson, the former presidential candidate and recently-appointed Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) made a visit to Chillicothe, Ohio last week to learn about the Freedom’s Path Veterans housing complex and talk with Veterans and advocates.
After a tour of the property that included a walk-through of one of the units, Carson sat down with several residents, along with HUD officials and senior staff from the local VA Medical Center. The Secretary spoke about the need for public-private partnerships like those responsible for properties like Freedom’s Path at Chillicothe, where VA Medical Center land is leased to Communities for Veterans, a private corporation, to build properties that will house homeless and housing-insecure Veterans.
Craig Taylor, President of Solutions for Veterans, a non-profit partner with Communities for Veterans, spoke to the assembled crowd about the need for additional tax credits to incentivize the creation of Veterans-only housing. With a program like the Gulf Opportunity Zones started after Hurricane Katrina, Taylor said, “we could solve the problem of Veteran homelessness in one fell swoop.” He acknowledged that the cost of such a program would be higher than Congress is likely to appropriate at this time.
Even so, for Taylor, the Secretary’s visit “speaks volumes about the low-key, no-nonsense business approach that he’s taking – not just toward Veterans issues but toward homelessness and affordable housing generally in the United States. He’s knowledgeable, attentive and believes deeply in the ability of the American people and the economy to deal with the current situation. He’ll bring that focus and intensity to HUD to move those values forward.”
Carson’s visit to the Chillicothe property is particularly important because, Taylor notes, “in a rural environment, one of the things we have to do to house homeless Veterans is spread the word, and the Secretary’s visit gave us a broader platform to do that with the goal of filling the final units. Freedom’s Path at Chillicothe is a wonderful community. Once more Veterans know about it, they’ll be attracted to the pastoral environment and the quality housing.”
Solutions for Veterans provides stabilization services—like access to free linens, toiletries, cookware, and home furnishings for those who are coming to the property without the items that are needed to build a new life at a Freedom’s Path property.