California Vet Group Takes Action to Help Veterans Live the American Dream
When Air Force veteran Veronica Eldredge walked into the home in Thermal on Friday that she was planning on purchasing, she was bewildered at the number of people inside.
“Veronica, for everything you do for other veterans as well as your service to this great nation, the amount you owe on your home has been changed,” HomeStrong USA CEO Jed Davis said. “You now owe zero dollars and the home is already yours. ”
Trying to hold back tears, Eldredge told her story.
“I couldn’t afford to live where I was at,” she said. “I firmly believe that God placed HomeStrong USA in my life. ”
HomeStrong USA teams with Bank of America to assist veterans and active duty military service members in purchasing homes.
The company didn’t always have the program.
“We first got into this when giving a seminar about financial management and was approached by a veteran with a great question,” Davis said. “He asked, what kind of programs do you have for me? ”
At that time, Davis said, HomeStrong didn’t have any programs for veterans. The company, established in 1998, has since come up with this program geared for aiding veterans. It was launched in February.
Eldredge, who received the keys Friday, said she had fallen on hard times and battling health problems. The owner of the home she was renting lost the house due to the eminent domain process.
“Too many veterans are experiencing hardships, and we are committed to providing veterans for their sacrifices,” Davis said. “We will never fully be able to repay them for their sacrifices, but we will strive to offer them a piece of the American Dream that they helped secure. ”
Davis said 60 properties throughout the state have been donated by Bank of America.
“We go in and completely refurbish them and sell them to active duty military service members and veterans at a significant discount,” he said. “We are a Housing and Urban Development-approved counseling organization that provides financial education and counseling so that our customers can eventually own property they will call home. ”
Eldredge’s Riverside County home is the third the company has given to a veteran. The first was in Hesperia and a second in Yucca Valley. Several homes have also been sold to veterans at 20 percent to 50 percent below market value.
Davis said he hopes to be able to help at least 100 veterans this year alone. He also said each case is looked at on its own merits to determine how to help.
Bank of America donates the properties for the program using bank-owned lots that have been abandoned or lost through the foreclosure process.
“It’s been our intent to support the veteran community in every way,” said Bank of America’s Inland Empire market president Al Arguello. “We consider HomeStrong USA our partner in giving back to those who have sacrificed so much for us. ”
Veterans who join the program also participate in ongoing financial education and free one-on-one housing counseling from USA Cares Certified Military Housing Specialists.
On March 3, at Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel in Yucca Valley, HomeStrong USA donated a newly renovated home to Steve Yoshimi, a Vietnam veteran and cancer patient.
“Mr. Yoshimi is the definition of a hero,” Davis said, “His entire life has involved bravely serving others, and it is time for someone to give back to him. ”
The news that Yoshimi was being given a home near his family was a surprise to him.
“We are speechless,” Yoshimi said.
Yoshimi spent two decades as a missionary in Mexico building homes and was involved in managing an orphanage and day-care facility.
“Giving back to our military veterans in the form of homeownership is a tremendous honor for us at Bank of America,” said Gregg Hall, senior vice president, Bank of
America and member of the bank employees’ Military Support & Assistance Group.
There are certain eligibility requirements that must be met to qualify for the aid.
HomeStrong USA can be reached by calling 877-647-8764 or at HomeStrong USA.org.