U.S. veteran Cholla Fox has gone from homelessness to homeownership through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program at the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso (HACEP).
Fox, 53, moves to a home in Northeast El Paso; her daughter and grandchildren will move in with her.
“I have gone through so much in my life – peaks and valleys – and I have traveled all over this country, I now believe that this home is where I can settle down and raise my family,” Fox said. “I have earned this and I’m proud of it.”
The HUD-VASH program through HACEP is a powerful resource for veterans to get themselves on a track to self-sufficiency. Fox’s journey to homeownership is the result of a partnership between three entities: The Office of U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and HACEP.
For HACEP CEO Gerald Cichon, the success of Fox and others is only the beginning.
“We have utilized the HUD-VASH program to the fullest extent since its 2008 inception to help our U.S. veterans rebuild their lives,” said Cichon. “Ms. Fox and others who have excelled in this program illustrate the power of this program and how it impacts the lives of veterans nationwide.”
Originally from Beaumont, Texas, Fox joined the U.S. Army in 1982 and was active for 25 years, living in El Paso during her first station of duty before leaving the region in 1998.
Even while facing homelessness, Fox never wavered in her determination to get back on her feet. She joined the HUD-VASH program in 2014 and worked to restore her credit and savings. She worked with program coordinators through HACEP’s Family Self-Sufficiency/Homeownership Program to begin the process of purchasing a home.
John Rhodes, a veteran who completed the HUD-VASH program a year ago, hopes that stories like Fox’s and his own will encourage struggling veterans to join the program.
“Any veteran who can take this opportunity and make the best of it should research it,” Rhodes said. “It is work, but the work is worth it when the realtor hands you the keys to your own home.”
Retired Col. Michael Amaral, director of the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System, believes the HUD-VASH program is one of the most effective and supportive ways for veterans to use government resources to get back on their feet.
“It’s a collective effort to help our veterans, especially those in dire need of help,” said Amaral. “But the end result helps support those who have fought for our liberties we take for granted.”
A cavalcade of HACEP maintenance technicians, representatives from the local VA office, Congressman O’Rourke’s office and City Representative Sam Morgan’s office, and Cichon himself helped carry Fox’s belongings into her new home.
“This is part of our mission: Get people through our programs and into a life of independence and self-sufficiency,” said Cichon. “Veterans like Cholla and John are an inspiration to their families and our community.”
Gallery Courtesy HACEP