Catholic Outreach to build veterans housing

Photo by Dean Humphrey—Sister Karen Bland, executive director of Catholic Outreach of the Grand Valley, walks on the site at Third Street and Pitkin Avenue where the organization will break ground May 3 for a 16-unit apartment complex for homeless military veterans who are single.

A federal grant would have helped, but without it, Catholic Outreach of the Grand Valley will not be deterred from building housing for homeless veterans.

News that Catholic Outreach won’t get a Department of Veterans Affairs grant means only that the nonprofit organization will find another way to get all the funding it needs for the housing complex, which it will name St. Martin’s Place.

“By doing it without the government, we won’t have them looking over our shoulders,” said Sister Karen Bland, executive director of Catholic Outreach.

Weeds and empty whiskey bottles litter the vacant lot across Pitkin Avenue from the group’s day center, where homeless people can get services and come in from the cold. Come next fall, the site will be transformed into a 16-unit apartment complex for homeless military veterans. The design will be similar to St. Benedict’s Place, the Catholic Outreach complex for the homeless on White Avenue and Second Street.

“We’ve gotten used to seeing signs that say ‘Support our Troops,’” Bland said. “But then our troops come home, and they don’t have jobs or housing. This is a way people who don’t know how to support our troops can support our troops.”

The St. Martin’s Place project still needs donations of $350,000, Bland said. Donations of more than $1.2 million already have come from foundations, individual donors and other churches. Proceeds from the Catholic Outreach annual fundraising drive will go to the housing complex.

The housing will be for single veterans. Some units will serve as transitional housing, and others will be permanent housing, depending on need, Bland said.

Veterans will kick in 30 percent of their incomes toward housing or rent. If units are available after veterans’ needs are met, the remaining units could be used by other homeless people, Bland said.

The builder of St. Benedict’s Place, Shaw Construction, will be the builder for St. Martin’s Place. Chamberlain Architects will draw up the design. Both companies donated profits on St. Benedict’s Place to the project and plan to do the same for St. Martin’s Place. The units should look similar to St. Benedict’s Place, but they will be built with brick, Bland said.

“I didn’t go looking for this,” she said of delving into another housing project. “It’s divine providence.”

The public is invited to a groundbreaking for St. Martin’s Place at 11 a.m. May 3.


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