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New Apartments Serve Military Veterans

Expansion of a Livingston Avenue apartment complex for some military veterans means more than just a place to stay. It’s a lifeline to a new beginning. 58 year old military veteran Kenneth Perry helped cut the ribbon for the expansion at the Commons at Livingston. The furnished units are designed for formerly homeless and disabled veterans. They feature 500 square feet of living space with kitchen, bedroom and full bath. “It helped to restore a lot of self-worth and dignity back to me that had been lost over being homeless because when you’re in that type of situation no matter how great your mind is, the first thing you think about is survival," says Perry. Perry served in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in the early 90’s. During that time he injured his back while unloading military supplies. All the veterans living at the Commons are disabled. When Perry returned to the U.S. he was hired to drive a truck but his back pain from his military injury interfered. “I had to drive with excruciating pain and I couldn’t really afford to be drowsy or in any way be insensitive while I’m on the highways. It would have presented a danger not just to myself but everybody else out there," says Perry. Perry and other veterans at the apartment complex get support from Veterans Affairs and other agencies as part of their living arrangement. The complex is run by National Church Residences. Spokeswoman Colleen Bain says some veterans suffer from strong emotional challenges from being in a war and that can make it hard to find permanent housing. “Usually there’s a period of time of 1 to 2 years, before the effects really bring them to the point of homelessness. And we are trying to work with the VA to get to folks before they can become homeless," Bain says. About 1200 veterans were counted as homeless last year in Ohio. 54 year old Lloyd Dillon was close to being homeless. After working in the Air Force for 6 years he ran his own construction company. Last year, he shattered his ankle while trimming trees. “I came to VA expecting to have my ankle taken care of, to rehab here and rebuild someplace else. That didn’t happen that day and all of a sudden I’m homeless," says Dillon. Now, Dillon also lives in the Commons at Livingston. Residents sign a one-year renewable lease and pay about a third of their income for rent. They must have a job or enroll in education or job training. They can also volunteer for community service. Spokeswoman for National Church Residences, Colleen Bain says the veterans raised enough money through recycling to help pay for a fitness center within the apartment complex. Bain says the Columbus housing model for homeless and disabled veterans will be copied in Toledo and Atlanta. “We believe that this model works. We’ve had very impressive results in the two years that this project has been open. And we think it’s an answer to homelessness for veterans across the country," says Bain. National Church residences says the new group of apartments cost 7-million dollars. It was funded through a combination of private loans and public monies from Columbus, Franklin County and the federal government.