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Programs that help neighborhoods can also help people. And that made Veterans Day in Garland extra special.
Veteran Nicole Harris was handed the keys to a refurbished home on Creekridge Lane on Nov. 11, with help from Garland’s Community Development Department, Garland Housing Finance Corporation (GHFC), and many caring individuals and companies.
“I don’t think it’s still sunk in,” Harris said. “Even now, standing in front of it, it’s still unreal.”
The young former cadet will graduate from a police academy program in January. She was living in a women’s shelter, she said, in order to be “all in” on her pursuit of a dream of becoming a police officer.
One of her instructors is Wendy Sheriff, who as a Garland officer, built a career around her deep care for Garland’s homeless. Sheriff noticed the student who would never miss class and asked why she usually stayed late. Harris admitted it was because the wireless connectivity was often spotty at the shelter where she lived.
Through her work with the City, Sheriff built a connection with the Community Development team. And when they were looking for a tenant for the Creekridge Lane project, Sheriff knew she had the perfect fit.
“Not coincidence. Godsend,” Sheriff said. “This couldn’t have happened for a better person. And she’s ready to pay it forward already.”
The HOME Infill Program is a federally funded program administered by the Community Development Department. It helps promote the revitalization of Garland’s neighborhoods and communities along with increasing the rate of homeownership through special programs for low- and moderate-income families.
The City’s original plan was to refurbish and resell the home. But the February ice storm compounded the home’s problems, causing GHFC to step in. As the project was repurposed for a veteran, the community responded with furnishings, household goods and other private donations to fortify a true feeling of home.
“We celebrate you today not so much because of your service, which is wonderful in itself, but your story since your service,” said City Council Member Ed Moore, who represents the neighborhood in far southern Garland. “You’re about to walk into the American Dream – a home.”
Earlier that same Veterans Day, GHFC officials planted a sign on a vacant lot across town on Meandering Way – promising that it too would become the home for a veteran.
At the site, GHFC Executive Director David Gibbons told about a tragic fire that struck the site in the 1970s-era neighborhood. The owner was killed and, with no heirs to claim the property, it stood in ruin. The homeowners association turned to the City for help.
The City went through proper legal channels and cleared the remnants of the home. The lot is utility connected and shovel-ready for its next chapter.
“We’re hoping that maybe by next Veterans Day, another veteran will get a house on an infill lot,” Community Development Director Mona Woodard said, fingers crossed.
GHFC’s programs are designed to increase affordable housing opportunities while strengthening Garland. GHFC provides down payment and closing cost assistance, affordable senior and multifamily housing and, as in this case, direct ownership of Garland property.