Federal grants announced this month totaling $2.6 million to help homeless veterans in Southern Nevada don’t solve the problem to transition the vets into jobs that will keep them off the streets, according to James Cappello, a Chicago investor and manager for a new-concept project for homeless vets.
He said he intends to launch a live-in work program for homeless veterans to redevelop buildings in Las Vegas, partnering with Tom DeMuth of a Milwaukee-based investment group.
“We want to tap into public works programs so we can transfer them from our building so they’ve got a job for four or five years to come and it won’t be a minimum-wage job. When I transfer them over it will be a living-wage job,” said Cappello, whose proposed effort will combine resources from private, government and charitable organizations.
Reached Wednesday while traveling in New York, DeMuth said he has been working with Cappello over the past couple months to buy a building in Las Vegas for a homeless veterans project.
DeMuth said he is the principal for an investors group that would fund the projects.
The awards announced Aug. 11 by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, come from the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program.
The list includes $1.23 million for the United States Veterans Initiative for the U.S. Vets facility on East Bonanza Road and programs in Henderson, Boulder City, Pahrump and Mesquite. Another $458,750 goes to the Salvation Army on Palomino Lane, and $944,773 goes to HELP Social Service Corp., a New York-based organization that served 200 participant households in Clark County last year.
Also, Vietnam Veterans of California Inc. is receiving a $1.97 million grant for veterans’ supportive services programs in Reno, Carson City, Sparks, Hawthorne, Fallon and surrounding counties in Northern Nevada.
“Although the rate of homelessness among veterans has fallen, there are still far too many of our heroes living on the streets,” Titus said in a statement. “I am pleased to announce these grants which will provide critical funds to assist local nonprofits, like Las Vegas’ U.S. Veterans Initiative, in their efforts to help Southern Nevada’s most vulnerable veteran families get back on their feet and transition to permanent housing.”
But Cappello, 65, said while the grants are well-meaning, they don’t correct the veterans’ homeless problem.
“All it is is words. It doesn’t change life,” he said. “You give them a voucher and they take the voucher over to a building to get them an apartment. In the end, the guy has no work to uphold his rent. Then he gets evicted. In our building, he’s not going to get evicted. We’ll use his skill set to give him work.”
Cappello has a meeting planned for later this week with DeMuth investors, who he said have at least $15 million for buying buildings in Las Vegas to refurbish them under the new concept to employ homeless veterans as part of a private business venture.
He said his plan is to buy one or two buildings, including a downtrodden apartment building at Harmon Avenue and Maryland Parkway, and let homeless vets apply their skills to renovate the building.
From landscaping to painting to plumbing, the vets will be put to work and their rent will be discounted.
There are a couple of other locations his investor group is considering purchasing in Las Vegas, which he considers a target area because it has “one of the highest concentration of vets” who need jobs and could enter the workforce.
“We trade their skill set for the difference in the rent,” he said.
Cappello, who considers himself both an investor and prospective veterans champion, cited census data he used to research his project that estimates the Las Vegas urban homeless veterans population to be 1,200 to 1,500, down from 2,000 in 2010.
He said there is no money to be made on employing veterans for labor to refurbish and beautify the buildings.
“What money will be made is when we sell to the next buyer, fix it up and sell as a profit,” he said. “It’s not going to happen for at least four years.”
Cappello said he hopes to demonstrate his effort, without grants, to get homeless vets off the streets and into jobs for new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, who is trying to reform the VA. “I want to be able to get the message out to Bob McDonald that if he wants to solve the (homeless veterans) problem, I’m the best game in town.”
In a statement, Titus said she is confident that grant money is being spent on efforts that have positive results for veterans and their families.
“I have been to U.S. Vets a number of times to see firsthand the good work they do helping our nation’s heroes. I am confident that they will use this grant funding, just like they have used previous grants, to provide veterans the assistance they need to transition to permanent housing,” she said.
“Just talk with one person who has been served by this organization and you’ll see the impact it has helping veterans in Las Vegas find permanent housing, achieve gainful employment, and successfully re-enter civilian life.”
Contact Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308. Follow @KeithRogers2 on Twitter.