After living on the streets and, more recently, in a friend's garage, Army veteran and single father Joseph Garcia finally has a permanent roof over his head in a new low-income housing complex for returning soldiers in Glendale.
Veterans Village, a 44-unit, affordable-housing development for veterans and their families, formally opened Tuesday amid a larger debate across Los Angeles County about how to end homelessness.
Garcia, a Persian Gulf War veteran and part-time carpenter, moved in with his 10-year-old son, Gabriel, last fall. Since then, he's been getting to know his neighbors who saw combat in other wars, he said.
"All of our guards are down. We're like one big family," Garcia said. "Whether people were in the Army, Air Force, Marines, we all get along together really well, and we're always covering for each other. We're helping each other with our kids and feeding each other."
Garcia was one of the winners of a random lottery to pick the first residents of Veterans Village. More than 4,500 applications were received from all over Los Angeles County, said Jordan Pynes, president of developer Thomas Safran & Associates.
About four years ago, the city approached the developer with the idea of a project for veterans struggling to find a place to live.
Construction began on the $20-million development two years ago with $13.5 million coming from federal tax credits and $7 million being footed by Glendale and its Housing Authority.
The property has one, two and three-bedroom apartments, with rents ranging from $466 to $1,292 a month.
To qualify, residents had to meet sliding household-income limits. For example, a family of two can earn no more than $39,120; a three-member family can bring in no more than $44,040; and a four-member family can earn no more than $48,900.
Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said other cities in the county should do projects similar to Veterans Village instead of just honoring military personnel with Memorial Day parades.
"You have to devote your resources like the city of Glendale.... Only then can you truly hold yourself high and say, 'We've done all we can to help our veterans achieve a better life after their services to this great country,'" he said.
Veterans Village resident Alisa Ee, a mother of two whose husband served in the Iraq War, said housing is key for veterans trying to adapt to life back home again.
Then there's the added benefit when veterans and their families live side by side with other veterans' families, she said.
"You're surrounded by people who are like-minded and so people understand you," Ee said. "Being able to have that community available for veterans is priceless."
Mikailian writes for Times Community News.