The Miami Herald – NEIGHBORS

With $400,000 Grant, Liberty City Gets a Village for Homeless Disabled Veterans

The Miami Herald – NEIGHBORS

By Tyrone Lomax, Jr. 

Thanks to funding from The Home Depot Foundation's Veterans Housing Program, Carrfour's Liberty Village community will open in late 2017. 

The nonprofit Carrfour Supportive Housing has received a grant — its second — from The Home Depot Foundation (THDF)’s Veteran Housing Grants Program. Back in 2012, the first grant was $350,000. This one came to $400,000.

The money will be used to further Carrfour’s mission: combating homelessness by providing affordable housing to underrepresented groups in South Florida.

With 60 units, “Liberty Village” will open late this year in Liberty City. It will accommodate formerly homeless veterans who have been impacted by disabilities.

“We’re hoping that it’s a final home for veterans that have had long journeys on their road to self-sufficiency after they served our country,” said Stephanie Berman-Eisenberg, president and CEO of Carrfour.

All of Liberty Village’s units will be for those who earn 60 percent or less of the area median income (AMI), with select numbers of units reserved for lower AMI percentages. To ensure manageable housing, the rent will be 30 percent of each veteran’s income — even if they don’t have a stable source. This is a practice done at all of Carrfour’s communities that contain a homeless component.

With these policies, Carrfour provides room for its residents to start anew. The Herald got to speak with one such resident, who after spending time with Carrfour, was able to turn her life around.

“Carrfour gave me my life back. If it wasn't for them, I would’ve been homeless with my kids,” said veteran Ashley Esposito.

Esposito was injured in the military, but didn’t stop fighting off the field. Since coming back home, she faced seizures, a car accident, a flooded house, and hospitalizations for mildew exposure along with her two kids.

Having left school to serve, and returning with financial credit that had room to improve, her prospects weren’t high.

That was until Carrfour gave her the “extra step” she needed.

Esposito spent three years at Amistad Apartments, Carrfour’s community in Little Havana for formerly homeless and low-income residents. Paying $690 for rent, she was able to slowly build her credit and life back up.

She met her future husband at Amistad, and they’ve since married and recently closed a deal on a townhouse in downtown Miami. She has an associate’s degree from Broward Community College, and is pursuing her bachelor’s from Florida International University. She’s also eight months pregnant.

“They make you feel like you’ve actually done something for your country and they appreciate it,” Esposito said. “They don’t stop until they actually help you.”

Aside from providing affordable housing, Esposito found the informational services Carrfour provided very beneficial. Moreover, the employees — particularly Seth Eisenberg, Carrfour’s Operation Sacred Trust director — cared.

With genuine interest in her situation and well-being, Eisenberg worked closely with Esposito to help her and her family.

Now looking at newfound prospects, Esposito works to spread the information and resources Carrfour provided her. Employed by the Miami VA Healthcare System, she strongly recommends Carrfour (and working with Eisenberg) to any veterans looking for assistance.

Carrfour doesn’t just serve veterans, though. The company is dedicated to a wide range of populations, Berman-Eisenberg said.

Sixteen communities have already been created, stretching from Miami Beach to Little Havana.

Carrfour’s targeted audiences have included the formerly (and chronically) homeless, veterans, disabled, and low-income residents. Of the four communities currently in planning, one will be dedicated to LGBTQ seniors.

“We feel that supportive housing is the perfect combination of what somebody needs coming out of homelessness in order to remain successfully housed,” Berman-Eisenberg said. “It’s a combination of very affordable, quality housing, combined with on-site services as a safety net for a family.”

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