"I'm a life-long Houstonian. I'm also a Vietnam vet. And I can't say how proud I am of Houston and Houstonians. We have really, as a group, Houstonians have stepped up to the plate."
That's Tom Mitchell, executive director of U.S. Vets Texas. He says the Travis Street Plaza housing community in Midtown is an example of how Houstonians from the public and private sector are all coming together to take care of the city's military veterans.
Travis Street Plaza opened last December and reached full occupancy just last month. It has 192 units for low-income, homeless, and disabled veterans. Besides affordable housing, it offers services like mental health counseling, job training and rehabilitation through the Department of Veterans Affairs and different organizations.
The city contributed $5.7 million from federal and local funds to the total cost of $18 million for the project.
Mayor Annise Parker says Houston has one of the largest populations of veterans and consequently also homeless veterans.
"We're working really hard to make sure that our returning veterans who are coming to us today are embraced and reintegrated by the community and put on the right path. But we can't forget those veterans who are already in Houston and who have been struggling for a very long time."
Mayor Parker with Tim Cantwell (in white), Tom Mitchell (to right of Cantwell) and others
She says facilities like this are not just a place to live for veterans in need, but it gives them dignity, self-respect and hope.
Tim Cantwell is the president of Cloudbreak Communities, which developed Travis Street Plaza and manages the adjacent Midtown Terrace facility for veterans. He says the goal is to help homeless or very low-income vets to get back on their feet.
"The whole objective there is to get somebody to their highest level of independence, whatever that is. If they're clinically capable of competitive employment, then the whole point would be to get them trained, educated, stabilized and into a job."
Rates are between $400 and about $700 per unit. Those vets who are in the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program, pay 30 percent of their income, and veterans who come in directly from the street pay no rent at all until they get employed or take advantage of their benefits.
Cantwell says a third facility with about 100 units is in the planning.