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Breaking Ground on New Housing for Homeless Veterans

November 10, 2014

Good design can turn a house or apartment into a home, but too often, homeless and low income populations miss out on well-designed, high-quality housing.

We’re determined to change that.

Yesterday, our in-house team of architects and planners celebrated a major milestone when Community Solutions, along with our partners at McCormack Baron Salazar, broke ground on a landmark tower in Washington, DC that will provide permanent supportive housing for 60 veterans who currently sleep on the streets along with 64 low-income DC residents. Built from sustainable materials and designed by one of the top architectural firms in Washington, the new John and Jill Ker Conway Residence will include community gathering spaces, ground floor retail, and on-site supportive services to help its formerly homeless occupants remain stably housed.

The groundbreaking comes at a time when veteran homelessness is falling in Washington, DC and across the country. Two weeks ago, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development released the 2014 Homeless Point-in-Time Count, showing that 406 veterans experienced homelessness in the nation’s capital on a single night in January of 2014. That number is down 22 percent since 2010, and the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence’s 60 units for homeless veterans could help drive it down even further.

“We owe these heroes a debt and that means that we don’t leave them after they leave the service.”

— U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro

“We owe these heroes a debt,” said U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, speaking at Monday’s groundbreaking, “and that means that we don’t leave them after they leave the service.”

The architecturally striking building was designed by Sorg Architects a firm that was chosen for its commitment to sustainability and public interest design. The building’s unique form, which is already drawing interest from critics and architecture publications, allows for maximum light and a variety of views of the Capitol and the National Mall.

“Design for human habitation can be a great equalizer,” says Suman Sorg, who worked on the building’s design. “It has the power to surprise, delight and to support human dignity regardless of the social/economic status of the users.”

The building is named for Jill Ker Conway and her late husband, John, a decorated veteran. Mrs. Conway, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated memoirist and Harvard-trained historian who currently chairs the Community Solutions Board of Directors, says the experiences of both her father and her husband in the First and Second World Wars have helped to shape her lifelong concern for veterans.

The building’s 60 units of permanent supportive housing will employ the proven “housing first” model, in which people experiencing homelessness are connected immediately to permanent housing and supportive services. All tenants will have leases and pay affordable rents based on their income. Professional case managers will work onsite to help tenants address health, employment and mental health needs in collaboration with the DC VA Medical Center.

The building is set to be completed in December of 2015, just in time to help Washington, DC meet the President’s charge to the nation to end veteran homelessness by the end of next year.