HEART makes $700K loan to Core Housing for pre-development of 60 homes for veterans at the VA in Menlo Park

Willow Housing, 60 units for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families, opens on the VA campus in Menlo Park in March, 2016.

Navy veteran James Mason in the kitchen of his new home.
Navy veteran James Mason in the kitchen of his new home. “I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life.”

HEART made a $700,000 loan to Core Affordable Housing for the development of 60 units of affordable apartments for very-low and extremely low-income families, including at-risk and homeless veterans and their families on the Menlo Park VA site. Willow Housing features 54 studio apartments and six 1-bedroom units, and space for an on-site manager. Emergency Housing Consortium (EHC) Life Builders will provide on-site supportive services.

My Mission Is To Share What I’ve Learned

James Mason left for Vietnam 43 years ago on a ship from Alameda. He served his country in the navy, and when he returned to his home town of San Francisco he worked a variety of jobs – including as a firefighter for the city of Oakland. The past few years have not been good for him. He had congestive heart failure, COPD, a stroke, lost his home, and could no longer work.

Now he has a different story to share as one of 60 new residents in the Willow Housing apartments for homeless and at-risk veterans, located on the campus of the Menlo Park VA.

Willow Housing is part of a federal initiative to address veterans’ homelessness by identifying and repurposing underutilized VA land and buildings for veteran housing. HEART made an early stage, pre-development loan of $700,000 and was part of a dozen partners who came together, including the City of Menlo Park & the County of San Mateo.

The 60-unit complex is an affordable housing alternative that was created to provide high-quality, accessible homes in a supportive environment for veterans close to the essential services many depend on. The project was developed by CORE Affordable Housing in partnership with EAH Housing, which manages leasing, maintenance, and operations; and HomeFirst which provides specialized support services in-house.

James is currently retired and studying filmmaking at his local community college. “When I was homeless I had no idea what would come next. Now that I have a new and affordable home, I want to share my experiences and strength with others. Now that I have this new opportunity, for which I am very grateful, it feels like I’ve been given a new lease on life.”