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CORRECTION: Housing project for veterans planned

$21 million projCorrects headline, garbled first paragraph

Posted: October 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 2, 2012 10:36 a.m.

A first-of-its-kind development for returning veterans welcomed its first resident Monday in Saugus — although the ground hasn't been broken yet for the unique project.

“The city is going to roll up its sleeves and get to work and do whatever needs to be done to make this project possible,” Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar said during a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on the empty lot where the $21 million project will be built. “I’m proud to be a part of a community that takes care of its veterans,” said the former Army Green Beret.

The Santa Clarita Valley, which is home to the highest number of veterans per capita in the state, makes perfect sense as the home for the 87-unit collaboration among the California Department of Veteran Affairs, Habitat for Humanity San Fernando Valley/Santa Clarita Valley and the Southern California Gas Co., according to Major Gen. Peter Gravett, secretary for the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This is the first of many projects, but this is the first, and it’s going to take all of you to make this happen,” said Donna Deutchman, CEO of Habitat for Humanity for Northern Los Angeles County, alluding to city and county officials who were among the 60 or so in attendance.

Besides offering housing assistance for veterans returning from wars, the project at 21508 Centre Pointe Parkway will be a service community for veterans, said Mike Mizrahi, regional public affairs manager for the Southern California Gas Co.

After a veteran purchases one of the homes, there will be programs available that offer re-acclimation assistance to veterans to help their transition back to civilian life.

“It’s a very unique opportunity for veterans to re-establish themselves after they’ve completed their service obligation,” said Lt. Renard Thomas, who serves in the National Guard and is director of re-entry programs at College of the Canyons, which helps more than 600 veterans locally.

“This sort of accelerates that opportunity and helps (veterans) appropriately re-establish themselves in our society,” Thomas said.

The plan currently proposes constructing 87 four-bedroom duplexes on about eight acres of the 24-acre Saugus lot.

Thomas found out Monday his application had gone through and he would be the first resident of the new homes.

Thomas currently lives with his girlfriend and three children, ages 9, 12, and 13, in a two-bedroom apartment in Valencia.

“It’s a great way for the American people to say, ‘Thanks for your service,’” Thomas said. “We’re very excited, my kids are very excited. We’re very honored and grateful, and I’m hopeful I can share the experience with other veterans.”



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