Conifer Realty and nonprofit partner People for People Foundation have teamed up to bring affordable housing for veterans and families to rural southern New Jersey.
Camp Salute, which opened in summer 2018, took eight years to become a reality and can be credited to the dedication that People for People founders Paul and Bernadette Blackstock have to veterans. Wanting to continue to give back to the community, they formed the foundation in 2003 to help individuals and families who have fallen on hard times.
“[Paul and Bernadette] always have had a special place in their hearts for veterans,” says Sam Leone, senior vice president at Conifer. “They reach out to veterans as well as the overall community and assist with everyday issues. But back around 2010, they started recognizing they were assisting vets with a need for supportive services and a need for housing, so they came up with the idea for Camp Salute.”
Leone says it took time to find the right site in Gloucester County, but the project found a home in Clayton with a supportive mayor and municipality. “It took a lot of perseverance and commitment, marrying the right site location with the necessary services, programming, and financing, and we got it done,” he adds.
Camp Salute includes 76 units for families and veterans earning up to 60% of the area median income, with 19 units set aside for disabled or homeless veterans thanks to Section 8 vouchers provided by the Housing Authority of Gloucester County. The rest of the units have a veterans preference, and the team hasn’t had trouble maintaining the waitlist. The demand for veterans housing is there, with veterans occupying more than half of the units.
“It’s a really diverse population. We have younger veterans, and then we also have Korean and Vietnam vets. We serve Gold Star parents, those who have lost a child in conflict, as well,” Leone says. “It’s become a real strong support community.”
People for People, with offices on site, provides a full array of social services for all residents, including professional and personal development such as résumé writing and job interviewing skills, supportive services, and art therapy. The site includes a veterans memorial area, with a sitting area and flags, as well as a tot lot. In addition, The Home Depot Foundation donated volunteer time and materials to build a large community garden with a gazebo and planting beds. The Clayton Elks also provided welcome kits to the new veterans.
The $23.4 million development was financed primarily with 9% low-income housing tax credits allocated by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency and equity provided by Red Stone Equity Partners. Capital One was the construction and permanent lender.
“It’s such a tightknit community,” Leone says. “I have veterans in my own family, including a nephew who signed up for duty after 9/11. I know I’m not the only one in that situation where it hits this close to home. When I go to Camp Salute, the veterans are so grateful and engaged. It is great to see it come full circle where we can give back in a meaningful way to those who have served.”
Conifer has two additional developments with veterans preference under construction—one in Rochester, N.Y., with the Veterans Outreach Center and the other in St. Mary’s County, Md., with St. Mary’s Community Development Corp. and Three Oaks Center.