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New apartment for veterans breaks ground in Washington County
Apartment complex to be named after Hillsboro Col. Betty Pomeroy
Standing under a tarp to avoid the rain, Washington Countys elite dug their shovels into the mud and gravel Monday morning, breaking ground on a first-of-its-kind hosuing project aimed at getting veterans at risk of homelessness off the street.
At a press conference Oct. 31, elected officials launched Pomeroy Place, a new 20-unit apartment complex exclusively for veterans which is expected to wrap up construction next year.
The project is a first in the Portland area, said Martha McLennan, executive director at Northwest Housing Alternatives, a Milwaukie-based affordable housing group that's building the complex.
What makes the project unique, McLennan said, is the mix of subsidized apartments for families and homeless veterans. Several apartments at Pomeroy Place are reserved for homeless vets enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Supporting Housing voucher program, known as VASH. Others are set aside from low-income veteran families who are more stable, McLennan said.
The vision we have here is for a community, McLennan said. Its a place of healing, a place of hope and a place of neighbors who can work with one another to create strong and healthy lives for themselves and for their families.
Apartment named after Hillsboro army colonel
Located at 18670 S.W. Blanton St. in Aloha, Pomeroy Place is named after Mae "Betty" Pomeroy, a Hillsboro retired Army colonel who has devoted decades to helping Washington Countys veterans and seniors.
Pomeroy spent 30 years in the U.S. Army before retiring as a colonel in 1988. Pomeroy, who grew up in Forest Grove and has lived in Hillsboro since 1990, worked as a recruiter, a public affairs officer and commander during the Vietnam War.
This will be good, Pomeroy said. It has the power to change (peoples) lives.
Since retiring from the Army, Pomeroy hasnt stopped serving.
She spent 13 years on the countys Aging & Veterans Services Advisory Council and was the first woman appointed to the Governors Advisory Committee for the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs.
She worked with Washington County counseling widows of soldiers and has spent the past eight years working on a veterans gateway and memorial at the Washington County Fair Complex.
(Service) is what keeps you going, Pomeroy said. As both a senior and a veteran, I have been extremely fortunate. I have my health, a good retirement income, lots of family support and friends, but its important to help those who need it, because one day Ill need some help, too. Its about paying it forward.
Pomeroy said she was surprised when county officials approached her about naming the facility after her.
That one blew my socks off, Pomeroy said. I havent done anything that a lot of others havent done.
Pomeroy said that if the apartments work as predicted, theres a chance that similar housing projects might be possible across the Portland area.
We want to make sure that this works, so that we can get some more, Pomeroy said. There is such a need for low-income housing in this part of the county.
'We need to do a lot more'
Andy Duyck, the chairman of Washington Countys Board of Commissioners, said the new housing can't come soon enough.
Housing in the Portland area is becoming harder and harder to come by, Duyck told the crowd at Monday's groundbreaking.
All of you know the need here in Washington County, Duyck said. This county has seen significant growth and a shortage of affordable housing in all areas.
Housing and rental prices in the Portland area has soared in recent years. That, combined with an already limited number of affordable housing options in Washington County, has created a crisis for people in poverty, Duyck said.
In Washingotn County, for every 100 families that have extremely low incomes, only 13 affordable housing units are available, Duyck said. Think about that.
Washington Countys Housing Services Department estimates that the county could need as many as 14,000 affordable housing apartments and homes just to meet demand, Duyck said.
Northwest Housing Alternatives has only one other affordable housing complex in Washington County. The organization built Alma Gardens an affordable housing complex for seniors in Orenco in 2013.
We like to boast that Washington County is the most affluent of Oregons 36 counties, but we must also face the stark realization that three-quarters of renters with low incomes shell out more than half of their income just on household rent, he said. That leaves precious little for food, heat, transportation and medical costs. Anyone looking to rent or buy in Washington County can attest there isnt a whole lot of units available and what is available comes as premium prices.
Pomeroy Place is a start, Duyck said, but theres more work to be done.
We know that we need to do a lot more, he said.
By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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