This year’s Veterans Day observations got a new twist.
Before flag waving, parades and speeches to thank the men and women who have served our country in our armed forces, there was a groundbreaking to celebrate the construction of a 24-unit apartment complex for homeless veterans.
The complex will be built in Hamilton at Novato, another impressive achievement by Homeward Bound, the largest provider of housing and supportive services for the homeless in Marin.
The project is an initiative launched by Sean Stephens, a county Veterans Services officer and Army veteran of four tours in Afghanistan. He had approached state Sen. Mike McGuire about the possibility of converting unused Coast Guard housing into apartments for homeless veterans.
Although that option proved unfeasible, McGuire did not give up on the idea. He sought out other opportunities at Hamilton, a former Air Force base, to fill this important need and show our respect and responsibility to those who have served in our military.
The City of Novato and Homeward Bound joined the effort, and the City agreed to lease a 2.8-acre parcel on North Hamilton Parkway, next to two other Homeward Bound complexes.
With state and local funds, construction is moving toward what Stephens likens to the military credo of “watching each other’s backs.”
Progress has been slower than expected due to the pandemic, which has increased construction costs, particularly for the expansion of Homeward Bound’s Mill Street shelter in San Rafael. The agency had to focus on raising money to complete that work.
Their progress has allowed the agency to bring work at the Hamliton complex back to the fore.
McGuire has been able to raise state funds in the budget and the project is in line for a 2014 Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Program Proposition 14 state grant.
In addition to veteran housing, the project will include 26 transitional housing units for homeless individuals entering the job market, and a manufacturing bakery and training center, expanding the long-standing food service production and training program. dates from Homeward Bound.
In a 2021 statement, McGuire said, “This has been a 100% team approach and we couldn’t be more grateful to the Novato City Council, Supervisor (Judy) Arnold and the Board of Supervisors along with the Foundation Marin Community Council for their incredible camaraderie. We have all come together to advance something no other county in Northern California has been able to do: end veteran homelessness.”
Homeward Bound expects people to move into the new apartments in the summer of 2024.
It is an example of a local initiative to make a difference; one that can bring about positive change and reflects our community’s respect for its veterans.