BY Qi Chen
An October 8 editorial in The New York Times claimed that 8,000 homeless veterans in South California are not getting the housing that they were promised by the Department of Veteran Affairs. In New York, various independent organizations have taken up the call to support veterans’ housing needs.
Jon Moldovan, a former Army sergeant, won a free home during Military Tribute Night, an event organized by The Boot Campaign, Benchmark Mortgage and the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF), all of which are Texas-based organizations. As its main event, 160 veterans were invited to a performance of the Broadway musical, “Rock of Ages” at the Helen Hayes Theatre in Times Square. At the end of the concert, cast member Genson Glimine thanked the veterans in attendance. “We’re giving back to everyone for everything they do,” he said. Organizers then brought Moldovan on to the stage to present him with the mortgage-free home in South Carolina. Moldovan, a South Carolina native, simply smiled at the applause from the audience.
He did not win the home by accident; he had been nominated by other veterans to receive the prize, along with hundreds of other candidates. Moldovan, who served in Afghanistan, was critically injured by shrapnel during a battle with the Taliban in 2007, and was awarded a Purple Heart. Since his injury, he has worked as an Army recruiter in South Carolina.
Chad Fleming, a retired Ranger Captain who has three Purple Hearts from his three trips to Iraq, said that it is great that people are giving recognition to wounded veterans. “It’s people saying, ‘Hey, we’re not forgetting you guys’,” he said.
Stewart Hunter, a co-founder of Benchmark Mortgage, said that while the original goal was to bring 100 veterans to see the Broadway show, 160 came, including their spouses and families, the total number was 242, half of the theater’s capacity. The veterans came from three branches of veterans associations in New York and New Jersey. Benchmark Mortgage donated $50,000 toward the tickets and presentation of the home, while the Boot Campaign, a non-profit organization that raises public awareness of veterans by selling combat boots, donated $40,000. The 1,408 square feet home, which has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, was donated by J.P. Morgan Chase to the Military Warriors Support Foundation, who then determined the winner through nominations.
The home awarded at Military Tribute Night was not the only free home to be given to veterans recently. On Oct. 6, Building Homes For Heroes (BHFH), a non-profit organization based in Long Island that builds homes for veterans with severe injuries, announced a home giveaway to Cpl. Jeremy Kelly, who served in the Marine Corps. The organization also partnered with J.P. Morgan to match homes to veteran applicants. BHFH renovates the home to suit the special needs of the veteran, which includes building ramps inside the house. On average, for each house matched, BHFH would donate $25,000.
Both Military Warriors Support Foundation and BHFH employ a similar system to award homes to veterans. J.P. Morgan donates the homes, most of which were foreclosures, to the non-profit organization, which then matches the homes to veterans through an application process. BHFH, which builds homes for veterans, only built homes for veterans deemed by the American Disability Act to have a 100 percent permanent disability. Their partnership with J.P. Morgan, which began in early 2012, gave them the ability to provide homes to veterans with all levels of injuries. J.P. Morgan has promised to provide 1,000 mortgage-free homes to non-profit organizations to present to veterans in need in the next five years. Sgt. Moldovan’s home was the fifth giveaway from MWSF in 2012, and Cpl. Kelly’s home the second from BHFH.
J.P. Morgan is donating foreclosed homes from all over the country, but homes located in the three states with the highest number of completed foreclosures, which include California, Florida, and Texas, comprise 65 percent of all homes given by MWSF, according to its official website. Out of the 20 homes up for adoption on the BHFH website on Oct. 15, 16 were from those same three states.
Families of veterans are excited about the giveaway events like Military Tribute Night. Dawn Vilardi, a sister of veteran, thought the event was amazing. “Everyone was there to give it away to someone else,” she said.