PALMDALE — As the nation celebrated the first official Juneteenth federal holiday on Saturday, 16 veterans and their families received keys to their new homes in the Homes 4 Families veteran-enriched neighborhood at Division Street and Avenue R.
The “Phase 1” families representing the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps branches of the military, joined Rep. Mike Garcia, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Mayor Steve Hofbauer, and other dignitaries at a key ceremony to mark the occasion. The event, which was broadcast live on Homes 4 Families Facebook page, included a flag-raising ceremony and the burying of time capsules for each family.
The 16 “Phase 1” families homes are the first of what will be 56 homes in the veteran enriched neighborhood. Two families have already moved in; four more families will move in two weeks. The remaining 10 families will move in by the end of summer.
Homes 4 Families’ veteran enriched neighborhood model offers home ownership and family enrichment services to low-income veterans and their families. The nonprofit organization also provides comprehensive wraparound services that include financial education, therapeutic workshops, trauma-informed care and veteran-to-veteran support. Trauma-informed care allows the veterans to come together in groups to talk about their past and their experiences and how it is affecting them in the present.
“This has been an amazing experience. It’s been three long years of very had work but also a lot of fun of getting to know these wonderful families,” Marine Corps veteran Teri Thompson said. “I never thought I would ever own my own home.”
Thompson added she got to know her future neighbors well through the Zoom meetings they had during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Air Force retiree Alvin Brockelman said his Homes 4 Families journey began two years ago.
“But that’s not the important thing,” he said. “The important thing is it’s hot outside and I want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart.”
“Thank you everybody who came out here to help us achieve a dream I didn’t think would be possible,” Air Force veteran Darcel Bailie said.
Army veteran Juan Bran and members of his family — wife Susan, daughter Nola and son Logan — toured their three-bedroom home. Their other son Devin could not make the ceremony. The home is empty at the moment. They will move in early next month.
“We would like to thank God, whose blessing has gotten us here in our new homes,” Bran said when he picked up his key package. “May God bless all who have helped get us in our new veterans community.”
Logan and Nola asked if they could see their future bedrooms while their parents looked at the master bedroom and bath.
Homes 4 Families also has a 12-home veteran enriched neighborhood in Sylmar and a 78-home development in Santa Clarita.
Donna Deutchman, president and CEO of Homes 4 Families, said the nonprofit continued to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We kept going; our veterans kept going,” Deutchman said. “We did all of our social services over the Internet through Zoom … and the veterans showed up and made a community over Zoom and the staff showed up. Everything you see built vertically today was done over COVID, that’s just amazing progress and I cannot be more grateful.”
Pamela Bray, Homes 4 Families’ enrichment services consultant, explained the time capsules each veteran and their family created. The Mason jar time capsules included pieces of art to symbolize what the families mean to the community, and what they want their future to be like. Some of the time capsules included traditional family recipes, or family songs.
“The time capsules are an opportunity to both speak to future veterans and create a statement about the original community,” Bray said.
Congressman Garcia said the homes are not handouts.
“This isn’t a handout; this isn’t the United States of America saying, ‘Hey, thank you for your service; here’s your free home,’ ” Garcia said. “This is the country, the community, organizations like Cal Vet coming together and saying, ‘Thank you for your service, how can we help you help yourself and in turn get the keys to this beautiful home, which you frankly have earned.’ ”
Garcia added that the veterans and their families put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” into the project.
The congressman and members of his team also helped build a wall at the development.
Dr. Vito Imbasciani, secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, noted the significance of the key ceremony to the veterans’ children.
“I don’t know where you’re coming from, but I know that there is a wonderful future promised you,” Imbasciani said. “You’re going to be going to schools in this neighborhood, many of you. You’re going to be in a wonderful community with people like your parents who have served in the military. They’re going to be bonds in this community that just don’t exist in most other communities.”
Barger will have a motion on Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s agenda to allocate $378,000 in Homeless Services Center funds to Homes 4 Families veterans enriched neighborhood project in Palmdale.
“We do our jobs for you,” Barger said. “I have to acknowledge what Congressman Garcia said — this is not a handout; this is a hand up.
“Thank you for your service; thank you to families who stood by you while you worked serving this country. And make no mistake, this is the beginning but this is not the end. We will continue to build these homes to make sure families have what they need.”
Mayor Hofbauer and his wife Barbara, and councilmen Austin Bishop and Richard Loa also contributed labor to the project.
“For all of us that have family, friends and neighbors that have served in the armed forces protecting the freedom that we have to be able to do what we’re doing here today, this is a great opportunity to thank everybody, all of them, and provide something to help kind of give back,” Hofbauer said. “The efforts that people put in here makes a difference.”
“Homes 4 Families is an incredible nonprofit that really cares about individuals and families,” City Manager J.J. Murphy said. “If any of you have challenges once you come in here we are an email or a phone call away … you have a responsive government.”
Joyce Gonzalez of Antelope Valley Chevrolet presented two $25,000 checks to Homes 4 Families
“We just pray that these new homes will just be what you need to make your family whole,” Gonzalez said.