By Phil Gomez
SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, California (KSBW) — Away from the Veteran Day parades and celebrations on Thursday, renewed hope and housing for veterans who are living houseless on the Central Coast.
The Santa Cruz County Veteran’s Memorial Building Trustees closed escrow on Jaye’s Timberlane Resort. The resort is located off of Highway 9, in Ben Lomond.
“I was ready for suicide. I was ready to check out,” said Air Force veteran Darren Barthl fighting back tears.
Barthl found hope after suffering through personal disappointment and physical injuries.
He was living in the Benchlands but is now one of a handful of vets housed at Jaye’s Timberland Resort.
“Me and my buddy David kind of made it. We were the two that kind of pushed it that said we could do this,” Barthl said.
What they did was push for the first-ever Veterans Village. The village is a permanent affordable housing solution for veterans and their families.
“Getting the vets isn’t even the problem. There’s 58 vets with Section 8 housing vouchers in this county that aren’t even using them. Why wouldn’t we take that opportunity to house our vets even among the community?” said Marine Corp veteran, David Pedley.
Partners like Housing Matters have already screened individuals to make sure that they’re eligible for Federal Administration housing vouchers,” said Susan True, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County CEO.
The property has 10 cabins, a four-bedroom three-bath home and an office that will provide services for veterans.
It can immediately house up to 18 veterans with the possibility to expand.
“So, obviously there’s a lot of hurdles to get to the point of opening. Ideally, we’d like to open with that 18, and continue to develop the property to house a few more veterans on top of that,” said Chris Cottingham, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building of Trustees.
The Community Foundation is one of several organizations involved in Veterans Village.
It’s hoping to raise more money with a $75,000 donor matching program through November.
And as for Barthl, he’s fitting nicely into his new community, after all, this is home now.
“Feel accepted and Housing Matters really made a difference. They made it so I had a plan to stay and I can grow and I am back,” Barthl said.
It doesn’t stop here. They’re already working to fill a need in Watsonville.
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