Soldier opens home to veterans and their families

 According to HUD, 38.5 percent of homeless people in 2011 were veterans

By Jameson Cook
The Macomb Daily (Mount Clemens)

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) — A soldier whose house was nearly stolen has turned the nightmare experience into a positive outcome by making it available for needy military veterans and their families.

Army Special Forces Sgt. Kevin Robertson has agreed to lease his Mount Clemens home to the newly formed Veterans Constructing Communities Foundation, which will turn the home into a three-unit residential facility for returning veterans.

He almost lost his home to a man who gained Robertson’s power of attorney and secured $135,000 in mortgage and equity loans on the Smith Street house. But the man, Mark Powell, a Florida resident, was convicted by plea of false pretenses over $20,000 in 2011 and is making restitution payments.

“I started to think about what happened to me and what happens to vets,” he told The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens. “Veterans who serve (overseas) are coming back to a bad situation. These guys need help, and they’re not going to ask for it, especially the combat guys. It’s very hard for them to adjust. This will get them pointed in the right direction.”

The VCCF, which has applied for 501c 3 status, was created this year to eradicate homelessness among veterans. Robertson’s large, two-story home will serve as transitional housing for the veterans who will be assisted in locating permanent housing.

A grand opening celebration was held for VCCF’s office in Mount Clemens and honored Robertson.

National veterans organizations have set 2015 as a goal to end homelessness among veterans and the chronic homeless. According to the Housing and Urban Development, 38.5 percent of 162,513 homeless people counted in January 2011 were veterans.

Mark Diaz, a Vietnam and Desert Storm military veteran, and Mary Beth Ryan founded the organization this year after developing it over more than three years.

“There’s a need for veterans and their families to get help they deserve. It’s staggering, and it’s only going to grow,” said Ryan, executive vice president. “We just have a passion to help these war heroes from all war eras.”

The organization appreciates Robertson’s contribution. The organization and Robertson connected through Elizabeth Geary, who is now the VCCF’s marketing director.

“We’re thrilled to be able to get off the ground our effort to help rebuild veterans’ lives,” Ryan said. “We thought this would be a great first project to launch our fundraising.”

The tenants will pay discounted rent, some of which will go to Robertson and some of which will go to the VCCF. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will assist the organization in finding candidates for the housing.

The organization is seeking $150,000 in donations to improve and turn the worn-down home into three separate units. The structure needs new windows, furnace, roof and electrical, and it must be reconfigured and made handicapped accessible.

CI Engineering will oversee the renovations.

In addition to finding homes to provide permanent housing, the organization will serve as a resource and advocacy center for veterans, Ryan said.

Ryan noted the home’s ideal location in Mount Clemens where veterans can have close access to the county Veterans Services Department and other governmental services.

Robertson, 48, who lives in Florida, for a short time lived in the home after inheriting from his father in 1998.

In 2009, Robertson befriended Powell, to whom he signed over his power of attorney while Robertson served in the Middle East. Unknown to Robertson, Powell gained a $120,000 mortgage and $15,000 equity loan on the home.

Powell, 40, who resides in Florida, in 2011 pleaded guilty to false pretenses over $20,000, and was ordered by Judge James Biernat Jr. of Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens to pay $1,000 per month for his five years of probation.

Powell had paid $18,000 through June but in August requested Biernat to end probation and the payments, according to court records. But Biernat on Aug. 19 rejected the motion, and Powell has since made three $1,000 payments to pay through September, records say.


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