SYLMAR ( — A local chapter of Habitat for Humanity has partnered up with the California Department of Veterans Affairs to build affordable houses for hundreds of working veterans and their families.

The 12 four-bedroom homes being built in Sylmar, along with 87 more going up soon in Santa Clarita, won’t end the problems of homelessness, unemployment, bankruptcy and addiction among vets. For Joshua Towe, however, it’s a good start.

“I was in the Army from 2006 to 2012. I served in Iraq for 15 months,” he said.

The Towes and their three boys will be buying their home in Santa Clarita under the special program dubbed “Habitat for Heroes.” It will be a great relief for the family now living in cramped quarters.

“We actually are living with my parents in a three-bedroom, two-bath house. All of us. With two dogs,” said Denise Towe.

The structures are being built with money from CalVet for subcontractors and with volunteer and sweat equity labor from the new homebuyers and their loved ones.

Patrick McGarry, 22, whose mom, Beatrice, is an Air Force vet, was busting rocks in the hot afternoon sun to clear a construction zone.

“My mom has been working hard for her life, so me breaking some rocks to help her get a house is not a big deal. It’s nothing compared to what she’s done for me,” he said.

In addition, the vets buying the homes must be working and the combined family salaries must total at least $45,000 in the Sylmar location; it’s a few thousand more in Santa Clarita.

Efrain Hernandez, an Army vet who served in Korea, and his wife, Valerie, who spent more than nine years in the National Guard and Army Reserve, said the new home will be a blessing.

“It’s a great opportunity for our family…through Habitat for Humanity that’s helping us out. They’re making the American dream for us,” said Hernandez.

Along with the houses, which will include some specifically built for disabled vets, the veterans will get financial and budget assistance, as well as a full array of veterans’ services like counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the new program will bring great joy to many people, the act of helping vets is far from finished.

“It does help us, but then it’s a little sad that we do have homeless veterans because we did sign up; we signed a check for our life for the United States and some are homeless. It’s very sad,” said Valerie Hernandez.

For more information on how to get involved with Habitat for Humanity, visit their website or call (818) 884-8808.


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