This article was featured in the High Desert Daily Press:
HESPERIA • An American flag waved in the breeze, as a teary-eyed Larry Hook stood in front of his new home in Hesperia during a special housewarming celebration.
“Being able to move into this house is like a dream come true,” said Hook, 71, who served in the U.S. Army and reserves. “Without this veteran’s program, I would still be living in a trailer park in Victorville. It’s a new start in life.”
Hook on Monday was the first recipient of HomeStrong USA’s “Home for Heroes” program. The Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved counseling agency gives eligible military vets and home buyers a chance to own their own home.
The afternoon event, attended by nearly 60 people, included officials from the city of Hesperia, Bank of America and MGR Real Estate.
“I signed the deal around New Year’s Eve for a home that costs $110,000,” said Hook, as he mingled with well-wishers inside his unfurnished 1,400-square-foot home on three-quarters of an acre. “The program is bringing the cost down to $88,000. With 20 percent down, my payment is going to be under $500 a month.”
Hook said he’ll move into his home on Fir Street in about three weeks.
Jed Davis, president of HomeStrong, was excited as he shared his organization’s vision.
“The homes are donated to us by Bank of America and we work with various groups to get those people into those houses,” Davis said. “We have 50 homes in the pipeline that are currently being rehabbed, so we’re halfway to our yearly goal.”
Davis said his group will probably celebrate 30 more housewarming events in the High Desert over the next year.
“We’ve only had one financial institution participate in the program, but we’re hoping to spread the word so that we can help more veterans,” Davis said.
Mayor Pro Tem Thurston “Smitty” Smith said the HomeStrong program helps the city twofold, as it fills empty homes while helping veterans.
“It’s also nice for the neighbors to know that there is not an empty house sitting next to them,” Smith said. “We’ll be here, as a city, to help HomeStrong and various agencies to fill these empty homes.”
Michael Rademaker, CEO of MGR, said his company is eager and excited to work with HomeStrong as they liquidate homes throughout Southern California.
“It’s a chance to say thank you to our veterans — current and those from a number of years ago — who never got a proper thank you,” Rademaker said. “It’s special to me when we get a chance to embrace those people from that time.”
For more information on HomeStrong USA, go to www.homestrongusa. org.
Rene De La Cruz may be reached at (760) 951-6227 or at RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com.