On National Day Of Service, Construction Started For Homeless Veterans Housing Center

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Roy Daniel always wanted to be a Marine, but after almost a decade of service, one of his biggest battles would be returning to civilian life.

“I had lost my job and — I drinking a lot — things just weren’t going right and before you know it you’re out there on the streets,” the 58-year-old Tampa native said.

Daniel was homeless for seven years before he was accepted into a two-year transitional housing program at Ocala’s Ritz Historic Inn on East Silver Springs Boulevard, where he now works as the resident manager.

On Sep. 11, Volunteers of America of Florida and Marion County broke ground on a new housing center for homeless veterans like Daniel.

The Ritz Reserve will have 12 units, said Wendy Whitescarver, resource development manager for Volunteers of America of Florida.

The building will be across the street from Ocala’s Ritz Historic Inn, which was originally built as an apartment building in 1925. In 2011, the inn was renovated to accommodate housing for transitioning veterans.

Its new neighbor, the Ritz Reserve, will hopefully serve as a more permanent residence for veterans, Whitescarver said.

“When we opened [the Ritz Historic Inn] the community support was above and beyond any other community that we serve,” said Janet M. Stringfellow, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Florida.

The Ritz Reserve will do its best to include some of the historic inn’s architectural style, she said.

This development will be phase one of a project to create 36 new units. The cost of the first phase is estimated to be $2.18 million, $2 million of which was paid for by Marion County.

At the ceremony, Marion County Commissioner Carl Zalak III said that breaking ground for this project on the National Day of Service and Remembrance was a great way to honor veterans.

“Isn’t this an incredible day to celebrate the rebuilding of America?” Zalak said.

About Silvia Rueda

Silvia is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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