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Fordham Village Opens Doors for Homeless Veterens

The difficult transition from active duty to civilian life just got a little easier, thanks to a new Bronx apartment building.

Fordham Village, a housing development for veterans who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless held its ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, May 23.

The six-story, 56-unit building is located at 355 E. 194th Street. The project was led by the Jericho Project, a non-profit that advocates for the homeless, and the City’s Department of Housing Preservation. Jericho executive director Tori Lyon said the apartments wound up in the Bronx because of the price of real estate and ease of access to amenities.

“Land is cheaper here,” Lyon said. “And the Bronx VA Center (about a mile away) is a great resource.”

Jericho has several similar buildings throughout the Bronx, but Fordham Village is the only one exclusively for veterans. Lyon came up with the idea in 2006.

“We chose to prioritize returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets because we felt a lot of them were at risk of becoming homeless soon, if they weren’t already,” she said.

Veterans who didn’t serve in either of those wars are welcome in the building as well. The maximum income for a resident at Fordham Village is about $28,000 per year. A second veterans’ residence is expected to open this fall on Kingsbridge Terrace.

The total project cost a little under $15 million and was funded mainly through Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Equity and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace plan, which will pay for 1,650,000 units of affordable housing in the city by 2014.

Jericho will also provide counseling and job training at Fordham Village. Christopher Cubitt, a member of the National Guard, will be the building’s resident career counselor.

The 26-year-old Kingsbridge native said his biggest challenge is that veterans often get labeled as unstable or disabled when they return from duty. However, he feels that the opposite is true.

“First and foremost is the professionalism,” Cubitt said. “You have to follow orders. There’s no ‘I don’t want to do that.’ It’s about finding resources when there aren’t any.”

Veterans will start moving into the apartments in mid-June. There is no limit on how long they can stay. Riverdale resident Dr. Roscoe Brown, former Tuskegee Airman, called the building “absolutely marvelous.”

“It shows what can happen when people come together to solve a problem,” Brown said. “In this case, the problem is veterans’ homelessness.”

One of the first residents will be 27-year-old reservist Prentiss Donaldson. She fell victim to a housing scam at the apartment she rented upon returning from service in Europe in January.

Her supposed landlord illegally rented to her. Not only was she out of a home, but also lost her security deposit and rent money. Donaldson has been sleeping on friends’ and relatives’ couches ever since.

“I’m looking forward to this opportunity where I have a stable environment to come home to,” she said. “In the transition from active to civilian life, veterans need to be more noticed. There’s not enough help.”

At least in the Bronx, there is now a little bit more.

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