A partnership solves the problem of at-risk homeless veterans.

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Over the past 10 years, the number of homeless and at-risk homeless veterans has risen across the country. Several states like California, Delaware and Conneticut have implement creative programs from utilizing recycled shipping containers into studio apartments to providing vouchers through HUD, to place veterans into permanent housing situations.

In Clayton, NJ a suburb of Philadelphia, PA, a partnership between a non-profit and for-profit is tackling the at-risk homeless situation holistically by creating an entire community with on-site support services.

The Camp Salute Affordable Housing Project is a 76-unit apartment complex built with a veteran and veteran surviving spouse preference. The Camp Salute apartment complex includes: five (5) apartments dedicated to homeless Veterans, 19 apartments dedicated to disabled veterans and 51 apartments, designated veteran preference.

Camp Salute apartments have fully equipped kitchens, a living room and private bathroom and patio or balcony. The eight buildings offer, one, two and three bedroom apartments with the following amenities: a community room, exercise room, a computer lab as well as a tot lot playground area. Also planned is a Veteran’s Memorial area consisting of flags and a sitting area.

On-site services will be provided by the non-profit partner, People for People Foundation of Gloucester County to assist on-site and off-site clients by providing workshops and support groups, addressing PTSD issues, abuse issues and access to other Veteran benefits. Federal government accredited claims agents will be on-site along with other additional veteran service organizations.

The Camp Salute Affordable Housing Project is a joint venture between The People for People Foundation and Conifer Realty, LLC to provide permanent housing for low to moderate income families with a Veteran Preference. It is the first and only community in the United States built to provide permanent housing to veterans, their families and the surviving spouses of veterans.

Bernadette Blackstock, President and CEO of the People for People of Gloucester County organization states, “In larger urban centers, they are dealing with true homeless issues, not just specific to veterans. In South Jersey it isn’t so much that we have veterans living on the street, we actually have a large population of veterans and their family members who do not have permanent housing. These veterans and their families find themselves moving from one relative’s house to another or individuals being placed in a transitional housing facility where they are thrown into a mixed population where they feel alienated and disconnected. Camp Salute is being built for this reason.”

Blackstock continues, “Our veterans just want a place to call their own. They feel they have earned it but find they just can’t afford it.

According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans website, about 1.4 million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to several factors including: poverty, lack of support networks, dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing, an extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and limited access to health care and support services.

The website adds that a top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol. Blackstock states, “That is exactly our mission at Camp Salute.”

In 2003, Bernadette and her husband Paul created the non-profit, People for People Foundation of Gloucester County. It is a grassroots organization dedicated to helping the normally self-sufficient who experience a temporary crisis in their lives resulting in a financial emergency or need that “Falls through the Cracks” and cannot be funded or serviced by traditional government programs or private charity sources.

Within the first seven years, the Blackstocks noticed that the majority of grant applications were coming from veterans, an audience that the Blackstocks were very familiar with due to the fact that Paul’s father was a WWII Veteran who dedicated his life to volunteering for the area’s veteran population.

JP Blackstock, who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day was left permanently disfigured after sustaining major injuries in a later battle. JP was sent back to the states and remained in a rehabilitation facility for several years. After being released, he continued to receive support services from veteran volunteers and eventually decided that he too would dedicated the rest of his life to volunteering for other veterans throughout the region.

Paul Blackstock witnessed his father’s entire recovery and the positive impact the veteran support services had on his father’s life. Also, through JP’s volunteer efforts, Paul and Bernadette saw how so many other veterans lacked access to these services.

Paul states, “Until his last breath, my father continued to support the veterans that fought beside him and those who continue to fight for our freedoms today. His dying wish was for me and Bern to please continue to carry on his mission to take care of the veteran community. So, Camp Salute is one way we have been able to honor his memory.”

Through their efforts at the People for People Foundation, the Blackstocks saw the benefit of partnering with other organizations, both public and private. One of their partnerships with the Gloucester County Habitat for Humanity brought them in contact with Alan Connors, who at the time, was the director of the Habitat program in Gloucester County. Connors, who is a Vietnam veteran, proposed the idea of creating a housing community dedicated to veterans in need.

Together, the Blackstocks and Connors spent five years looking for a site that would accommodate their vision. Along the way, they teamed up with Sam Leone, a local resident who served on the Gloucester County Chamber of Commerce with the Blackstocks. Leone is the Regional Vice President at Conifer, LLC, a nationally ranked, full-service real estate company that develops, constructs, owns and manages high-quality, affordable housing communities, located in Mt. Laurel, NJ.

Leone states, “This project was perfect for Conifer and for South Jersey. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to really make a difference in our own backyard. All the players were in place so finding funding was our only challenge. Luckily, New Jersey has the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program which is funding about 80% of the development and all the elected officials in the County are supporting this initiative.”

The ground breaking for Camp Salute took place on September 12, 2017. To date, the building’s exterior is completely finished and the interior details are now in progress. On February 28, 2018 the partners started to accept applications for residency at a local community center. During the application process several veterans expressed their thoughts about the Camp Salute community idea. Vietnam veteran Charles Ingram stated, “This community brings unity back to our lives and it makes it easier to sleep at night knowing that you are surrounded by your brothers and sisters and management that cares.”

The partners are still accepting applications for residency. A full application package is available online at: https://welcome.pfpfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Camp-Salute-Application-Day-Package.pdf

There is a prescreen process that includes a criminal and credit background check and verification of landlord references as well as a required security deposit. In order to qualify to live at Camp Salute you must meet the total household income limits as follows on the chart below:

The proposed monthly rents for the apartments range from $714 to $870 for the one bedroom apartment, $845 to $1032 per month for the two bedroom apartments and $981 to $1197 for the three bedroom apartments. Residents are responsible for electric and gas. Trash, water/sewer, emergency maintenance, lawn care and snow removal are included in the monthly rent. Pets are permitted with restrictions and must be approved by management.

The first tenants are scheduled to move into Camp Salute on Memorial Day weekend and a ribbon cutting and open house is scheduled for the Fall.

In closing, Bernadette explains, “We wanted to build a community for veterans that can be replicated throughout the country. Whether dealing with at-risk homeless veterans or homeless veterans, they all need a safe and clean place to live that they can rightfully call their own. This is what Paul and I promised JP and are we are humbled to have received so much local support to allow us to honor his memory by helping those who are still with us and are in need.”

For more information about Camp Salute, visit the People for People website at: https://welcome.pfpfoundation.org/ or call: 856-579-7561.

The People for People Foundation of Gloucester County is a grassroots 501 3 (c) organization founded in November of 2003 by community leaders who were concerned about helping their neighbors who fall on hard times.

People for People’s mission is to provide financial and advocacy assistance to Gloucester County residents who are normally self-sufficient but have experienced a financial hardship due to loss of employment, sickness, accident, fire, or other unforeseen emergency.

In 2010, the People for People Foundation expanded their mission to include the welfare and well-being of veterans throughout the County and State. This was prompted by a dying wish made to Bernadette Blackstock, by her father-in-law, JP Blackstock. JP Blackstock, a WWII veteran, heroically stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, and was permanently disfigured in later battle. After returning to the states, Blackstock endured years of rehab and received consistent help from volunteers. Indebted to all the people who helped him, Blackstock dedicated the rest of his life after service to volunteering with veterans. This dedication to veterans inspired the Camp Salute community concept and was built in honor of Blackstock’s memory.

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