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Andre Thomas is patiently waiting for the final closing paperwork to complete the purchase of his new home. Every time the lender or realtor asks for additional paperwork, he gets it to them. His thoroughness and determination is how he’s gotten this far in his life.

Thomas, 58, served in the U.S. Army and fell on hard times. Thanks to the District of Columbia Housing Authority, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and most important – his own will, Thomas is coming into his prime.

“I’m living proof that it works,” Thomas said to hundreds of veterans who attended DCHA’s third annual Veterans Appreciation Day on November 10 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The event offers a variety of services, from housing to employment to manicures, in a one-stop shop.

“I mean, this is like a rags to riches story for me,” said Thomas, who served for three years. “At one time I had hardly nothing and was going through bad spots.”

He moved to the area from South Carolina in late 2008. Thomas was staying with his cousin until they had a disagreement. He had to find shelter. While at the VA Hospital, he learned about McDermott House, a formerly transitional home for veterans. While there, Thomas took part in the Comprehensive Work Therapy Program and began his career with the U.S. Census Bureau.

“They only give you six months to stay in McDermott House,” said the Ward 5 resident. “After that, I came out and was lucky enough to get a VASH voucher.”

DCHA started administering VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) vouchers, in the District in 2008 and now administers 1,035 of them. Some vouchers are customer-based and portable, while the rest are tied to the housing units themselves, like at DCHA VASH site Fendall Heights.

Thomas learned of DCHA’s homeownership program where he could use his voucher towards the purchase of a home. He enrolled in the class in September 2014.     

“The process wasn’t going to be easy. There was a lot of work we had to put into it,” said Thomas who was in the program for one year. “The main thing was getting your credit rating together. That was the longest part. I worked with legal services…They tell you to pay off certain things to get it off the report and get your credit score to a certain level.”

There also were homeownership classes, D.C.’s Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP), and meetings with lenders and realtors. He said finding a home within his price range was also very difficult, but he said he got lucky and is now waiting on his closing paperwork.

Thomas credited Alice Revel, DCHA’s homeownership coordinator, with her dedication to keep him on track.

“She helps you every step of the way and is always there when you need her,” he said. Revel was even able to help him line up with a realtor for his potential home.

Thomas said he is grateful for all of the programs he has been able to take advantage of due to his veteran status. He said he benefited from housing, employment, and other services thanks to DCHA and the VA.

He also wants to encourage other veterans in the area.

“I mean don’t give up. You know there is light on the other end of the tunnel. It is all just a process,” he said. “It is not like it is going to be easy and come overnight. You just have to stick it out.”

The programs guide you on the right path he said, but if the VA coordinator tells you to get a form, “go get the form,” he said. If the DCHA coordinator tells you to take a class, “go take the class,” he said.

Thomas continued, “Every obstacle they give you—just like the obstacle course in the military when you are in basic training—you got to learn how to maneuver and get the certain score so you pass. … I haven’t got my key yet, but so far it has been working.”

 

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Andre Thomas, U.S. Army veteran, is waiting on closing paperwork for his new home.
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Last modified: 11/10/2015 12:23:25 PM