Valor on Eighth marshals resources, inspires hope

A public-private partnership with layers of leveraged resources produced huge community impact in the form and function of Valor on Eighth, an affordable housing complex with a special focus on veterans.

This is part of the “Communities on the Line” series that I write for LISC Phoenix.

Honor, dignity and opportunity took up residence at Valor on Eighth when the Tempe apartment community designed and built for under-served veterans opened in January. Hope and determination have made themselves comfortable there, too.

With Valor, housing and veterans’ advocates scored a victory in the ongoing battle to create decent, affordable living environments for those who have served our country. Valor is the only affordable housing apartment community in Arizona that puts the needs of veterans with families front and center.

That Valor, 1001 E. Eighth St. is fully leased with a waiting list speaks to need. That it exists as first-of-its-kind housing in Arizona and is a showcase for successful support services for veterans speaks to political will and determination. That it has become a magnet for honorable deeds says a lot about the compounding effects of good public policy and community practices.

The 50-unit complex just east of Arizona State University is near a Valley Metro light-rail station and the city’s bike boulevard. Creamery Park is nearby; Tempe Town Lake is within walking distance.

Hollis Chapman, a Navy veteran, was among the first to move into Valor. A buddy told him about it. Chapman, who has lived throughout the Valley for 21 years, seized upon the opportunity to live in Tempe.

“It was location, location, location,” Chapman said of the complex that is just east of Arizona State University. “I like Tempe a lot and I love this location.”

For Chapman, Valor was a chance to live in a nice complex for veterans that wasn’t removed from the heart of a community, far off the beaten path where it’s difficult to get to shops and appointments or to network. He said simply living around the “Tempe vibe,” where you often bump into forward-thinking residents and students doing interesting things, improves his quality of life.

“Sometimes you feel like you’re in places where people go there and they just die,” Chapman said. In comparison, Tempe inspires people to stay positive and try again if things don’t work out the first time, he said.

“That’s the atmosphere around Tempe, and it’s nice,” Chapman said.

Some of that visioning and can-do spirit was behind development plans for Valor.

The city of Tempe, Gorman & Company, and Save the Family Foundation of Arizona, with allies like LISC Phoenix and the Arizona Department of Housing, put together the land, financing, and programs to build the project.

Others joined them: The Arizona Diamondbacks donated a large playground. A North Valley Girl Scout, before leaving during the summer for Navy boot camp, earned her Gold Award by giving what was once a sparsely decorated teen room a makeover. A veterans motorcycle club donated and setup a billiard table in the fifth-floor rec room that gets plenty of use.

Save the Family’s George Campbell, resident services manager at Valor, said it’s not enough to simply provide housing for veterans. Wrap-around services, such as financial planning, job counseling and other support, are needed to ensure successful transition to civilian life and other challenges to success.

Campbell said resident services efforts will be measured on whether there’s an increase in housing stability, increase in household income, more connections to community resources and lower homeless recidivism.

At Valor, 45 units are affordable housing; five units are market-rate, live-work dwellings. Fifteen households are voucher-based; public assistance comes with case management services. Veterans live in 25 of the affordable housing units, and 18 of those units are occupied by families with minor children.

Campbell, an Army veteran, speaks the language of Valor residents and understands the drill. He has an extensive background in nonprofit homeless services in the Valley. As the go-to guy at Valor, Campbell knows how to help veterans get the help they need.

“I’m proud of what we do at Valor,” Campbell said. “I’m proud of what we do at Save the Family.”

There is more to come. By this time next year, there could be a Head Start and daycare program on site.

When asked what more could be done to improve upon Valor, Chapman had trouble coming with ideas.

“I’m very happy,” Chapman said. “I’m going to do my part to stay here as long as I want to stay here.”