Ground broken for veterans housing complex in Tinton Falls

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TINTON FALLS – Ground has been broken for the construction of the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Village in Tinton Falls, a four-story building with apartments that will be available to veterans of the armed forces at a range of low and moderate income levels.

The building will be run by the nonprofit organization Soldier On, according to a press release from the office of Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ). Smith was a guest speaker at the Sept. 12 ceremony.

About 50 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony held at Liberty Park just north of the 12-acre project site on Essex Road. Officials said $8 million in federal funding will help pay for construction. The remaining costs will be financed by the developer and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, according to the press release.

“Today construction begins on Soldier On and WinnDevelopment’s $23 million, 70 one-bedroom housing units,” Smith said. “Thank you Tinton Falls for welcoming the project.”

Smith praised Soldier On’s leaders, President Jack Downing and CEO Bruce Buckley, for what he called their tireless efforts to help veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

“Soldier On, thanks to Jack Downing and Bruce Buckley, has created world class home ownership opportunities coupled with vital services for homeless veterans, and the impact has been enormous and life-changing,” Smith said. “For the first time in years, even decades, many veterans will finally have a decent place to live and hope and prosper.”

“I am especially grateful to Freeholder Lillian Burry for her extraordinary dream of creating a Monmouth County homeless veterans housing initiative, and for her tenacity and skill in making it happen,” Smith said.

“For nearly a decade, Lillian has been the quarterback in the push to meet the compelling housing and service needs of homeless veterans and there have been many setbacks along the way, including an inability to secure space at Fort Monmouth,” the congressman said.

“I have been proud to do my part in finding a Monmouth County home for Soldier On and I promise you I will continue to be an active supporter as it moves from design through construction to the day it opens its doors and welcomes its very first veteran home,” Burry said.

“According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2001 there were 294,840 homeless veterans on any given night,” said Smith, whose 2001 law for homeless veterans first authorized funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veteran Affairs Supported Housing program.

“Almost 20 years later, that number has dropped to 37,085. Progress, but still far too many,” the congressman said.

Among its many provisions, Smith’s law authorized, for the first time, a program which will be tapped as a major source of future rental assistance funding for veterans who will be living at the housing complex, according to the press release.

Smith helped Solider On come to New Jersey in 2011, assisting the Massachusetts-based organization to obtain a $1 million grant in 2012 to help veterans in his district in Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington counties, plus Middlesex and parts of Mercer, according to the press release.

That work later expanded to serve nine counties, adding all of Mercer, Somerset, Bergen, Hudson and Essex.

Today Soldier On also manages similar veterans housing operations in New York and Massachusetts, providing 177 homes, with another 152 in various stages of development, according to the press release.