A new program in Massachusetts is helping military veterans and their families stay in their homes.
Two years ago, volunteers organized by Revitalize Community Development Corporation did some yard work and other chores around the home of Lonnie and Mary Chappell.
" I don't know if we would be here right now, when they came out in 2017 they did everything for us and if it wasn't for them, I don't think we would have made it," she said.
Now the Chappell’s modest single-story house in Springfield’s 16 Acres neighborhood will be the first in Massachusetts to benefit from a new pilot program to rehab and modify the homes of veterans to allow them to age in place.
Lonnie Chappell, 78, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who sustained a back injury in Vietnam that he said left him in pain for the last 40 years. The improvements planned will make the bathroom in the home wheelchair-accessible.
"It is always an honor and a pleasure to see people that really care about us," said Lonnie Chappell.
Revitalize CDC has been awarded $730,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Veterans Housing Rehabilitation and Modification Program.
Over the next three years the money will be used to fix up the homes of 51 eligible veterans across the state, according to Revitalize CDC President Colleen Loveless.
"The primary focus is to rehabilitate and modify the homes so that the veterans can stay in their homes and preserve their quality of life and make it safe, healthy, and accessible for them," explained Loveless.
To be eligible, applicants must prove they fall below income limits set for the program and must have an honorable discharge from military service. They do not need to be disabled to qualify.
Democratic Congressman Richard Neal who attended the launch of the program said the federal government has an obligation to help veterans live independently for as long as they can.
" The contract we made with them when they entered the service needs to be acknowledged when they leave the service," said Neal. "We always participate in the celebrations of Veterans Day and Memorial Day but never to miss the point this is the real opportunity to honor those obligations."
Since its founding in 1992, Revitalize CDC said it had completed repairs to over 800 homes, helped with neighborhood park improvements and launched community gardens in western Massachusetts.
The organization has led a multi-year effort to rehab hundreds of homes in poor neighborhoods of Springfield and Holyoke.
Other groups participating in the new initiative on veterans’ housing include the Bilingual Veterans Outreach Centers of Massachusetts, Springfield Partners for Community Action, and the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts.