A poignant photography show honors veterans whose lives have been touched by Bring Them HOMES, our housing initiative for homeless and at-risk former servicemen and women. All photos by Gus Powell/Courtesy Lee Marks Fine Art
Above, Army veteran LaVonda and her daughter, Abigail, take in the view from their home at Hope Manor in Joliet, IL.
When LISC launched its veterans housing program Bring Them HOMES back in 2012, the initiative was fueled by decades of supportive housing experience and the belief that a more focused commitment to at-risk military veterans could both reduce homelessness and advance much-needed systemic changes.
In the intervening years, Bring Them HOMES has provided predevelopment grants to seed new housing communities and help fill financing gaps; technical assistance to help structure innovative development plans and connect them to high-quality services providers; and a ramped-up policy effort to help state and federal authorities leverage their assets to better serve veterans.
Now, long-time supporter Citi Community Development is honoring the people whose lives have been touched by those successful strategies. A compelling new photo exhibition called Bring Them HOMES: Photographs of Resilience, at the Citi DeFord Gallery in Long Island City, N.Y., follows veterans and their journeys from homelessness, job loss and health crises to a better life.
“Through our collaboration with LISC-NEF, we have seen firsthand how providing inclusive and welcoming housing for veterans can be an effective pathway to social and economic stability,” said Ruth Christopherson, senior vice president, Citi Community Development and Citi Salutes, and retired Colonel, U.S. Air National Guard. “By launching this exhibition, we aim to celebrate some of our nation’s heroes by displaying their incredible tenacity and resilience.”
Through the Citi exhibition, visitors will meet people like Vincent, who served in the Navy and yet found himself living in his car for two years before finding a new home at HELP Veterans Village in Perry Point, Md., and Ronald, at Veteran New Beginnings in Chicago, who has found comfort and peace in making model cars in his apartment.
“In telling their stories, these remarkable men and women give voice to the sacrifices of millions more who have dedicated themselves to our country, often at great personal cost,” said Maurice A. Jones, LISC president and CEO. “Citi Community Development honors them, as do we, by shining a light on their strength and their courage, and by continuing to put our capital and expertise to work in ways that help ensure they have the chance to thrive.”
Jones said Bring Them HOMES is particularly notable for its work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, identifying ways to take advantage of underutilized federal land so that new supportive housing developments can become part of a continuum of services for veterans. In Lyons, N.J., for example, Valley Brook Village offers affordable rental and supportive housing to 62 veterans on a VA medical campus, with easy access to health care and other social services. A second phase of development at the site is now under construction so that more veterans can get the support they need.
“It’s great living among other veterans” explained Lanisha, a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves and aspiring actress who is a resident of Liberty Landing in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., a veterans housing development featured both in the photo exhibition and a Citi video on the project. “It’s healing. We can talk through our issues, talk through our nightmares, talk through our dreams. It helps out a whole lot,” she said.
To date, Citi has provided more than $3.2 million in grants to seed and support Bring Them HOMES projects, which has helped create nearly 4,000 units of affordable and supportive housing. Their efforts continue to be fundamental to this work, noted Debbie Burkart, national vice president of supportive housing for LISC and its affiliate, National Equity Fund. Other major funders of the initiative include the MetLife Foundation and Northrop Grumman.
“Living in safe, service-enriched environments, surrounded by the shared experience of peers, homeless veterans recover some of what they’ve lost and find a way to move forward. We owe them that,” Burkart said.
Citi’s Bring Them HOMES exhibition runs through Jan. 30, 2019 at the Citi DeFord Gallery, 1 Court Square West, Long Island City, N.Y. It will subsequently travel to Washington, D.C. and other Citi sites across the country.
More Veterans Day Stories: