Stephanie Torres, third from left, adopted a room at Polk CDC’s Levens Street Housing for Veterans in Dallas.
As of Tuesday, January 8, 2019
DALLAS — Polk Community Development Corporation Executive Director Rita Grady found out late last week that the organization’s new veterans housing project could take in residents beginning this week.
That put Grady in scramble mode.
She wanted to hold an open house to introduce the community to the project and figured she better do it soon. She sent out invitations for “Impromptu Open House” at the last minute. Some people didn’t receive them until Friday morning.
However short the notice, the open house drew a crowd to the home at 984 SW Levens St. that has been converted into single-room occupancy units for up to five veterans.
The response to the open house is much like the support the community has given the project, called the Levens Street Housing for Veterans, since it launched earlier this year.
“It really makes, I think, our whole staff really proud to be able to do this. It’s exciting to see people from the community that have volunteered their time, hours of time to repaint the inside of this, donated furniture and many hours of labor,” Grady said. “It’s great to see everybody here.”
Grady said supporters would simply drop off donations as the organization transformed the house.
“That’s how it happens,” she said. “We would come in and there would be a pile of things on the table or in the kitchen. Towels or a new package of sheets or laundry soap, people just dropping of stuff.”
Polk CDC applied for grants to remodel the house, but didn’t receive funding. Grady said Polk CDC’s board and staff members didn’t want the house to remain empty for a year waiting for the next grant deadline, so they scaled back plans and charged forward with financial assistance.
“We’ve had everything inspected so it meets all Section 8 standards,” Grady said. “We just decided not to let it sit empty, even if we had to do it ourselves or whatever.”
The house has five rooms, a kitchen, dining room, a living room and a library. There are plans to convert the home’s basement into a rec room, but Grady said that will have to wait a bit.
“Every room has either been adopted in whole or in part by families who have veterans who have passed,” Grady said. “They put them in memory (of their relative). They decorated them, furnished them in honor of their family member that passed.”
Grady said Polk CDC purchased the home out of foreclosure, but didn’t have firm plans for it. Then the organization was invited to be part of the Operation Welcome Home effort by Oregon Housing Community Services, which has a goal of finding homes for veterans without a permanent place to live.
The home seemed a good fit for contributing to that effort.
“We were asked to participate in a leadership team for housing veterans. We had already acquired this house with the thought that we were going to do something with it,” Grady said. “We weren’t quite sure. But that’s how it goes.”
Long-term plans include building six one-bedroom units on the property, Grady said.
“There will always be a need for veterans housing,” she said.
Polk CDC works with Mid-Valley Community Action’s Arches project, which assists people facing homelessness, to assess those placed in the home.
“We use coordinated entry, which is basically an assessment triage tool to determine the vulnerability of an individual,” said Ashley Hamilton, Arches’ associate program director.
Jennifer Hernandez, Polk CDC’s portfolio and asset manager, said the assistance doesn’t end when a veteran is selected to live in the home. The Supported Services for Veteran Families program that offers rent assistance also provides counseling on self-sufficiency and accessing resources.
Hernandez said Polk CDC staff members may be able to refer Arches to local resources to help veterans as well.
“It’s a really nice partnership. We want to see people succeed,” she said. “I think we have the same mission.”