Veterans Haven: A Different Kind of Housing

4416 Arlington Ave.

Podcast with Matthew Heslin

Matthew Heslin has found a new way to make a difference. The partner in retail developer Heslin Becker Properties has been spending his spare time setting up housing for homeless veterans.

“There’s a process that is not in place today within the U.S. government to reintegrate and reindoctrinate these people back into society after they’ve come home from the war,” explained Heslin, who began looking into the situation two years ago, when he began noticing the large numbers of young homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles and Orange County and realized they were veterans. Realizing the U.S. government supplies services to veterans in need but lacks the expertise to adequately address the enormous housing need, he formed a 501c3 non-profit organization and has since purchased three apartment properties and renovated them to provide housing. The most recent was 2501 W. 54 St. in Los Angeles (the others are at 4416 Arlington Ave. and 2608 Ridgeley Drive, also in L.A.).

But providing housing for veterans is very different than operating even other specialized residential housing like seniors or student housing. The housing is geared toward veterans coming out of rehabilitation and looking for a change of life, rather than those with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and other high-risk issues, but Heslin has been working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to coordinate services that range from legal and financial provisions to mental health counseling to physical therapy, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and job placement, and may include other services as needs arise.

In many cases, though, he is locating providers himself and must also line up funding for both the services and the purchase of the properties. He realized early on that the private market was the best place to find investment financing—and became something of a pioneer in taking this route as a 501c3. “We had a very, very difficult and unsuccessful attempt at raising money through the government and private foundations for capital grants,” he said. He has had better luck raising money through private investors, but also organizes fundraisers, such as the Home for the Brave benefit concert that took place in Orange, Calif., in June.

Challenging though it has been, Heslin envisions exponential growth going forward. “I don’t see us doing two or three more acquisitions, I see us doing 10 or 15 more—at least—in the immediate future,” he declared.

Listen to this podcast for more details on Heslin’s efforts through Serene Haven. Heslin also accepts donations at www.serenehaven.org.