New partnership to create housing for homeless veterans

New partnership to create housing for homeless veterans
Former Army Specialist Lincoln Benson, City of Refuge resident (Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)
Former Army Specialist Lincoln Benson, City of Refuge resident (Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)

VINTON, LA (KPLC) - For nearly three decades, the City of Refuge in Vinton has given homeless veterans a place to go. Now, some of its residents can see a brighter future.

A new partnership between them and Habitat for Humanity has a lot of veterans excited, especially those staying at the City of Refuge, who say they're looking towards the future.

"Over 40% of men on the streets and women are homeless veterans. That's a crime," said Rev. James Saylor, one of the City of Refuge board members.

To get veterans off the streets, Habitat for Humanity has reached out to the City of Refuge - a local homeless shelter for veterans.

Lenn Knapp, Executive Director for the Lake Charles Habitat for Humanity says, "We're having an open enrollment starting in about two weeks in which we're trying to encourage all veterans families that might meet our criteria to build simple, decent housing and are willing to partner with us and have a need for housing to apply."

Few know the need for housing better than Lincoln Benson, a former Army specialist who spent time living on the streets.

"Most of the times I was basically all by myself. You wouldn't like the way you have to eat, but you have to survive you know?" explained Benson.

Benson's been a resident at the City of Refuge for almost nine years.

Each veteran here has a different story.

Alan Heathcoe, a former U.S. Marine Corp member says he ended up at the City of Refuge after, "A real bad car wreck that busted my back real bad where I couldn't work for about five years. And relatives and friends was trying to sustain me, but when the economy went bad everyone had to pretty much do for themselves."

The two say they're grateful for the shelter, which provides them a place to sleep and eat.

"Feed three meals a day, seven days a week," said City of Refuge founder, Burton Stigen, who explains that while there's no limit on how long veterans can stay, most here have hopes of moving on.

"I'd like to get my own place and just be happy with my family," said Benson.

And the new partnership will make that possible for these veterans, who've already given so much.

"Those families have given it all and I think a little bit should be given back to those veterans and if that comes from Habitat for Humanity, I think that's a good thing," said Heathcoe.

Rev. Saylor added, "If you don't take care of the veterans, what kind of society do you have?"

Habitat for Humanity will not only be able to help build homes for veterans in need, they'll also be able to help furnish them.

For more information on building houses for veterans, or to see if you qualify, call the Lake Charles Habitat for Humanity at 337-494-0129.

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