Last July marked a transformative moment for Leon Brantley, a 74-year-old proud member of a military family, as he stepped into his new home at Veterans Village Philadelphia. Nestled in the heart of the city’s Frankford section, this freshly minted apartment complex offers more than just affordable living; it provides a haven where a sense of community flourishes.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and stay up to date.
Building Bonds Beyond Barracks
Leon, chuckling with a sense of belonging, describes his experience, “To me, it’s like living in the barracks. I’ve met comrades and made friends. We’re building a bond as we go along.” This camaraderie is the heartbeat of Veterans Village Inc., a Philadelphia-based affordable housing nonprofit. With 31 out of 47 units already occupied, the $6.5 million Frankford project is a testament to a vision that goes beyond bricks and mortar.
A Vision of Support and Solidarity
Veterans Village Inc. was conceived by Dana Spain, a seasoned leader in housing and philanthropy. Frustrated with the subpar housing options available to women graduating from HAVEN Women, a facility for homeless female veterans, Spain decided to take action. With a $1 million contribution from the Joan and Bernard Spain Foundation, the Frankford Veterans Village emerged as a beacon of hope for those who have served.
From Frustration to Action
Spain recounts the genesis of Veterans Village, “He said, ‘Don’t you build apartment buildings for a living? Let’s not complain about it. Let’s do something about it.’ And so Veterans Village was born.” This bold initiative aims to be the first of many nationwide, with Spain emphasizing, “We alone cannot build enough villages to house all of our veterans in need, but we can be part of the solution.”
A Home, Not Just Housing
Veterans Village stands out with its diverse range of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, offering affordability and dignity to veterans and their families. Rents range from $800 to $1,775, ensuring accessibility. Importantly, 25 of the 36 occupied units have their rents subsidized through federal Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, addressing the broader issue of housing insecurity among veterans.
Addressing the Root Causes
Housing insecurity among veterans often stems from various challenges, including rising housing costs, employment struggles, and mental health issues like PTSD. The Frankford Veterans Village, with its state-of-the-art construction and thoughtful design, aims to be a source of pride for its residents.
Aiming for a National Impact
With the federal Veterans Administration setting a goal to house 38,000 homeless veterans in 2023, Veterans Village is making a tangible impact. More than 90% of its tenants have remained housed and employed since the units became available, a testament to the success of the initiative.
Fostering Comradery and Support
Lisa Pflaumer, a board member at Veterans Village, highlights the unique sense of camaraderie among residents: “There’s a sense of belonging and a sense of community as a result.” Vanessa Morbeck, a 32-year-old Army veteran, echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the shared experiences that only fellow veterans can truly understand.
Hope Amidst Struggles
Vanessa Morbeck’s journey reflects the resilience of Veterans Village residents. A survivor of military sexual trauma, homelessness, and PTSD, Morbeck sees her apartment as a place to rebuild and strengthen her relationship with her daughter. Her story, shared through podcasts and videos, serves as an inspiration for others facing similar struggles.
A Beacon of Americanism and Patriotism
For Leon Brantley, a Vietnam War veteran, Veterans Village represents more than just housing; it embodies a legacy of service and patriotism in his family. Brantley, who lost three children in a tragic fire, has dedicated his life to supporting fellow veterans. His organization, NUAMVAW, is a testament to his commitment to community.
Looking Ahead: A Future of Fellowship
As Veterans Village residents gather in the community room to cheer on sports teams, Leon Brantley envisions a future where these spaces become hubs for mutual support. As the project thrives, Brantley anticipates Veterans Village’s participation in the 2024 Veterans Day Parade, symbolizing not just a housing initiative but a vibrant community celebrating resilience and camaraderie.
In a world where challenges persist, Veterans Village Philadelphia stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating that affordable housing can be more than a roof overhead — it can be the foundation for a thriving and supportive community.