By Nina Holzer
On November 10, 2012, Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. (DC Habitat) staff and volunteers were able to come together for a very special Veterans’ Day event: a home dedication ceremony for Army veteran Ken Harris. After spending years as a member of the homeless community, Mr. Harris has completed his Habitat sweat equity hours and is now the owner of a rehabilitated home in the Ivy City community of Northeast DC.
In attendance were representatives from and supporters of Veterans initiatives around the District. Audience members appeared touched by the emotional program and were reminded of the invaluable services that Veterans and active duty members provide to our country every day.
“Everybody has helped Mr. Harris not only achieve the dream of homeownership, but achieve that point in his life when he can look back and say ‘as tough it was, look where I’m at now and look where I’m going’, ”said Bruce Reed of Marriott International.
Program speakers, such as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Pete Dougherty of the Department of Veterans Affairs spoke highly of initiatives that aim to revitalize communities and help Veterans transition to homeownership.
“We are so very happy to be working with Habitat for Humanity and so many others to help get housing available,” said Mr. Dougherty. “This effort starts in local partnerships and has been very successful. Let us keep working together, stay the course, to provide our veterans with a safe place to call home. The services they earned, their dignity, and their stability will inspire others to achieve their full potential.”
The event also served as an opportunity to highlight DC Habitat’s commitment to servicemen and women through its partnership with AmeriCorps. Bill Basl, Executive Director of AmeriCorps, spoke on the power of collaboration between community members to overcome homelessness and address community needs. AmeriCorps recently began a program called “VetCorps” aimed at reconnecting more Veterans to volunteer service, and at DC Habitat we are proud to have a former service member as one of our own AmeriCorps members.
“This year there will be over 1,000 AmeriCorps members who are veterans…serving the country one more time,” said Mr. Basl. “When you think about what separates a country, when people say the country is divided, look around here…the country is unified around a single purpose: it is service that is bringing the country together.”
Following the speaking program, Mr. Harris and his mother cut the red ribbon on his new front door. Mr. Harris’ transition to homeowner comes just in time for the holidays; he now has a home in which to host his family and friends during the upcoming season. We at DC Habitat wish him a very happy holiday!