The Press-Enterprise (California)
By: Julissa McKinnon
September 20, 2010
Five years ago, Perris resident Arlene Jackson embarked on a quest to build a home for the veterans she has seen sleeping in parks or begging for change.
Since then Jackson has liquidated stocks and savings and taken a credit line out on her house, to put $350,000 toward that dream. Much of the money has gone to buying and moving two new manufactured homes onto a 2-acre property that has been in her family for eight generations.
"My family has said, 'Why you?' And I say, 'Why not me?' God planted the idea to help restore the people who have served our country so faithfully," said Jackson, 62. "I can't imagine in winter not having a hot cup of coffee, or a cold glass of water in the summer."
Arlene Jackson wants to open a 14-bed shelter for homeless veterans on a 2-acre property in Perris.
There are still many hurdles to clear before her planned 14-bed shelter can open. Her to-do list includes paying up to $2,400 in back taxes, and obtaining county permits that could cost upwards of $20,000 to meet environmental, building, safety and other criteria.
Representatives of Assemblyman Paul Cook and Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley say they have had several conversations with Jackson, who has been "persistent" in her pursuit of funding.
However, before government officials can help her, Jackson would have to clear some relatives' names from the property title, obtain required permits and pay the back taxes.
"We can't give someone money to pay back taxes. That would be a gift of public funds," said Jaime Hurtado, a legislative aide to Ashley. He said this year each county supervisor has $600,000 to sponsor community or nonprofit projects.
Sam Cannon, chief of staff for Cook, who heads a committee on veterans affairs, said Cook has "looked pretty diligently for state funding" for the home but has not found any. He said the Inland area is home to one of the state's largest populations of veterans. About 130,000 veterans live in Riverside County and 117,200 reside in San Bernardino County.
Beyond permitting and funding, Jackson has been set back three times by burglars. Earlier this year, bandits made off with new appliances including a stove, refrigerators, dishwasher and water heater.
Regardless, Jackson said she is not discouraged. She continues to raise funds by way of her nonprofit organization, Restoring Hope Community Services. She has her second golf tournament fundraiser this year set for Nov. 6 at Gilman Hot Springs Golf Course. Information can be found at www.restoringhopecommunityservices.com.
Hurtado said to secure county funding, Jackson would be expected to show how she planned to fund the shelter over the long term.
Beyond tapping a federal disbursement that allots caretakers of veterans $34.40 a day, Jackson said she plans to continue fundraising and to ask for a commitment from the veterans themselves. Residents of the homes would be expected to enroll in an educational program or job training.
Jackson said she also has enlisted the help of other veterans advocates over the past year, including Franklin Benjamin, a retired chief warrant officer of the Marine Corps who specialized in logistics.
Benjamin said he plans to recruit several dozen Marines to help landscape the property, which is covered with dry grass and boulders.
"We'll get a platoon of Marines in here to get the landscaping squared away," he said. "You'd be surprised what we can do in one day."