VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Family Inheritance Provides Community for Homeless Veterans
The Tecklenburg family came to Lodi, CA, in the late 1860s from Germany, set on the American Dream by way of San Francisco. The family took to firefighting, property ownership, and Rotary, even having a street named after them. Their son, Alven Tecklenburg, joined the military during WWII and fought in the Battle of the Bulge with the 143rd anti-aircraft battalion. The story of an American hero never gets old, but it's what Alven left behind that has changed the community of Lodi, CA: a legacy.
One of Alven's granddaughters, Cheri Smith, enjoyed a close relationship with her grandfather, learning about her family history and his stories of serving his country. After his passing in 1995, she looked for ways to honor his life and began volunteering for many different organizations in the community. After losing her job in 2009, Cheri began managing her family's apartment building.
While volunteering at the Salvation Army, she met Veteran Jim Dennis who was in the process of receiving help from the Housing and Urban Development-Veteran Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) program and she knew what her next step was to honor her grandfather. She invited Jim to her complex to check out one of her vacant units, and the rest was history.
She now has over 14 Veterans living in the 42-unit complex, and welcomes more every day. "Housing Veterans was what my grandfather would have wanted me to do," said Smith. "It's not about business; it's about meeting other people's needs."
Not only does she provide housing through HUD-VASH but she gives them the support of a community, allowing the HUD-VASH program to hold meetings right within the complex.
"The guys appreciate the community setup," said Smith. "Living in an environment with healthy people, going through a process, and making positive steps is important. Some are working, some are going to school but they all support each other."
The HUD-VASH program is a partnership between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The local program is a collaboration between VA Palo Alto Health Care System and the Housing Authority of the County of San Joaquin. VA Palo Alto Health Care System's HUD-VASH program also serves Veterans in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Southern Alameda County.
Visit the HUD-VASH Program website for more information.