An army of support

GLENDALE — After living on the streets of Ventura on and off for years, Lygia Rueda De Leon and her family didn't know where to turn.

"We began to feel hopeless and began to give up," she said.

But on Wednesday, De Leon joined with city leaders and Salvation Army officials for the opening of the nonprofit's Chester Village affordable housing development, where De Leon now lives with her husband, three children and grandchild.

She said moving into a place they could call home was a dream come true.

"Now we are able to make better choices and provide a stable life for our family," she said.

De Leon's family — which was matched with the Salvation Army through officials at homeless-services provider PATH Achieve Glendale — was one of four families chosen to live in the nonprofit's new affordable rental housing project for formerly homeless families, located at 615 E. Chester St.

Many in attendance noted the project had to overcome numerous roadblocks, including rising construction costs and a spiraling economy, before completing construction in April.

"This is a wonderful completion of a dream," said Salvation Army Major Barbara Sloan. "We wondered at times whether this was really going to happen."

Sloan formerly headed up Salvation Army Glendale with her husband, Major James Sloan, and came from Oregon for the occasion.

Under the leadership of the Sloans, the army acquired the irregularly shaped parcel — hemmed in by the Ventura (134) Freeway to the north and a Salvation Army transitional housing home to the south — in 2003 for $475,000.

They then gathered funding from local, county and federal government to support the $1.79 million project.

The Glendale Housing Authority and City Council jointly agreed to close a $660,000 funding shortfall in 2007 and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich secured $250,000 in county funds before the project finally began construction in December 2008.

"It's been a long, long time," said Cathy Zappala, chairwoman of the Salvation Army's local advisory board. "We thank everyone here for your time and your funds."

Salvation Army officials said they had long dreamed of opening a permanent housing option for families in transitional facilities, which typically have a one- or two-year time limit.

Residents will receive support services to help keep them off the streets, officials said.

"We know it's only human for lives to falter for reasons not unfamiliar to us …" said advisory board member Zaven Khanjian. "But as it uncontrollably takes place, God has entrusted us all to come to the rescue. That's what the Salvation Army is all about."

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