One of the most significant hurdles that many Veterans find themselves up against is homelessness. The scene on move-in day at Silver Star Apartments reiterates this reality. Instead of u-hauls, trailers, or moving vans lining the parking lot, many of Silver Star’s new residents arrived by foot or were dropped off by family or friends. Their belongings slung over their shoulders in large, plastic garbage bags. Thankfully, Silver Star Apartments has opened its doors to provide Veterans a safe, secure, and supportive place to call home. Residents can display their belongings on shelves in their living rooms. They can fill their refrigerators with food. They can lay their heads down every night, not having to worry about where they are going to sleep the next night. This, and so much more, is what Silver Star Apartments was built to do.
Silver Star Apartments, which is comprised of Phase I and Phase II, is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, adjacent to the Battle Creek VA Medical Center. In order to complete Phase I, Marvin D. Veltkamp, President of Trilogy Development, Inc. was one of the first for-profit developers to do an Extended Use Lease Agreement on Federal Veteran Affairs land. With support from Cinnaire, by providing Low Income Housing Tax Credits, and Veteran housing consultants, Phase I and Phase II of Silver Star Apartments have been successfully completed. In response to the significant need for this type of facility, a Phase III is currently being pursued.
The infrastructure, location, and resources that Silver Star and Zero Day offer to residents is unparalleled to any other Veteran housing facility in the nation. The amenities at Silver Star, which include a basketball court, library and computer center, workout rooms, art classrooms, counseling offices, and a metal and woodshop further support the efforts of Zero Day. Zero Day was originally created to help prevent chronic homelessness and provide Veterans with the necessary skills they need to enter the workforce. Over time, Zero Day’s purpose has evolved into a much larger mission. Today, due to the partnership with Silver Star, Zero Day is able to offer Veterans accredited vocational training, apprenticeship opportunities, supportive services, life skills mentoring, career coaching, and job placement. With its headquarters located at Silver Star Apartments, Zero Day is able to walk alongside Veterans on an everyday basis.
Thirty-four years old, eight years of active duty in the United States Army, four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Over two-thousand miles in a Jeep, packed with all of his belongings, with the hope of finding a life that is driven by mission and filled with purpose. This is the journey of a man, who proudly fought to protect the freedom of Americans, only to find himself without the resources or support to live a dignified life after serving his country. Shae, like many other United States Veterans, has struggled to find his place in a world that has become foreign him.
The hardest part about being in the military is the transition back to civilian life. Hands down. Nobody tells you that. You train for deployment. You prepare for it. Mentally and physically; but, you aren’t trained or prepared for returning home.
Veterans, returning to civilian life, often grieve the loss of brotherhood, the adrenalin rush, and the support they had while serving in the military. In addition to the grief, Veterans are often faced with numerous hurdles, such as homelessness, lack of job training opportunities, physical and mental health issues, and the crippling stereotype that society has of Veterans. Thankfully, the partnership between Silver Star Apartments, a permanent-supportive housing facility for Veterans, and Zero Day, a training and support organization for Veterans, is making significant strides in knocking down these hurdles.
When Shae returned from his final deployment to his hometown of Tacoma, Washington, he found himself bored and unenthused, and quite frankly, lost.
“I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wasn’t where I needed to be.”
A fellow Army brother had heard about Zero Day, and thought it would be a good fit for Shae. Within two weeks of hearing of what Zero Day had to offer, Shae packed up his jeep and headed east, toward Lansing, Michigan.
Zero Day has provided the opportunity for Shae to build a new life for himself. He was able to acquire housing, accredited job training, and an apprenticeship. Through Zero Day’s construction management program, he has been able to utilize his passion for working with his hands by mastering construction skills. He has also had the opportunity to work with the DNR and Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors to provide disabled Veterans with a safe and accessible environment to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. Not only has Zero Day allowed Shae to find a mission and purpose for his day-to-day life, but he has also been significantly impacted by the vision of Tim Hunnicutt, Co-Founder of Zero Day.
The thing about Zero Day, is that there is a very, very small percentage of the population that have the three major things that make them a serious influence in the world: intellect, drive, and vision. Tim is one of the few people that I have met in my life that has all three traits; and, he’s using all of it to help Veterans. He’s doing it to help these people that are coming back. Most people will go their entire lives without meeting someone like Tim. It’s very special to not just meet them, but to be able to help them with their vision. It really is an incredible opportunity.
Being raised in a military family, Scott was destined to serve his country. He dedicated five years of his life, with three deployments overseas, to being a Marine. Unfortunately, like Shae, he was not well-prepared for what life would be like when he returned home. He didn’t have a plan or direction for his life. He enrolled in college, but still found himself longing for something to fill the void that was left when he ended his military career.
“When I got home, I re-connected with a group of buddies that never stopped partying. I got dragged down with them and quickly got in trouble. I got a DUI about a month after I returned from active duty. With that, all my opportunities were taken off the table.”
While Scott was enrolled in school full-time, he also had a baby on the way, and desperately needed a job. With his recent DUI, he found it difficult to find a job that would make ends meet. That is when he heard about Zero Day, and all that it has to offer to Veterans that need and want a helping hand. Like Shae, Scott was given the opportunity to be an apprentice with Zero Day, as well as gain accredited job training. Today, Scott is a Recruiter for Zero Day, where he is able to utilize his leadership skills to recruit other Veterans who need assistance and coaching. He stresses that Zero Day is not a “hand-out” to Veterans, rather it was created to serve as a gateway to opportunity.
With Zero Day, the possibilities are endless for Veterans.
John served in the Army during the post-Vietnam era. While there was peace in the world at that time, John eventually found himself faced with a battle of his own to fight. The war of drug addiction. After years of struggling, John sought help at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center Apartments, which is located adjacent to Silver Star Apartments. After completing a six-month residential program, John was prepared to leave his addiction war behind, and start anew. He was able to move into an apartment at Silver Star. He attributes his continued sobriety to the resources, support, and opportunities that Silver Start Apartments and Zero Day have offered him. Specifically, he’s taken on a leadership role as the “Greenhouse Champion” at Silver Star. In this role, he has not only built a team of volunteers to tend to the on-site Greenhouse, he has also found gardening to be an integral part of his recovery process.
“When you are addicted, and you stop that, there is immediately that void. If you don’t fill the void with something healthy and constructive, the old things will fill the void for you. That is the beauty of the greenhouse for me. It is on my list of healthy things in my life that I can do. It sounds real simple. But, sometimes the answers are real simple. Even when I am pulling weeds out there, I enjoy it. There is a calming peace about it.”
The greenhouse, which was curated by Zero Day, provides fresh vegetables to all of the residents at Silver Star Apartments. In addition to the greenhouse, John and his team are tending to an orchard that was donated to the property by the Bloomfield Hills Republican Women’s Club. Through these projects, residents are learning new skills, working as a team, and filling those voids that once plagued their lives.
Prior to moving into Silver Star Apartments, Bob’s life was filled with highs and lows. He had a respectable military career as a medic for the Air Force. He created a beautiful family with his wife and two children. He built an extensive resume of education and various careers. He was on the path to a life of wealth and great success. One day, Bob’s life, that showed so much promise, began to unravel. His marriage fell apart. His father became ill. Bob became seriously injured due to working at a capacity that his body couldn’t handle. He didn’t have a place to call home. His life completely fell apart, to the point that he didn’t want to live it any longer.
“I died and came back a few times in the ambulance. I thought, there’s got to be a reason that I lived. I decided to come back [to Battle Creek] to be with my kids. Thank God that I had that opportunity.”
Today, Bob has taken control of his life. He is rebuilding his physical strength on the Silver Star basketball court and in the workout rooms. He has found emotional healing through the counseling services that are available to him. He is able to spend quality time in his new home at Silver Star with his children. He has also been able to utilize his craftsmanship skills in the woodshop to build flag boxes for military families that have lost a loved one. To add to his recent successes, Bob was selected as the first Silver Star resident to become a Zero Day recruit. With support from Zero Day and his strong desire to help others, Bob is currently training to become a Peer Support Specialist for the VA. Bob feels that he has been given a second chance in life.
I don’t know how anybody doesn’t appreciate this. This is a godsend. This is something that gives a person a chance.
In military terms, Zero Day stands for “the day before something significant happens”. July 31, 2009 was Zero Day for Silver Star Apartments. On August 1, 2009, opening day at Silver Star Apartments, something very significant started to happen. United States Veterans, that were previously living on the streets, without jobs, and struggling with addictions, were given the RESPECT, THE HONOR, and THE DIGNITY that they each deserve.
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Frontier Development Group, LLC