Carpenter’s Place closed Friday on a three-bedroom ranch home in Rockford. It moved in furniture over the weekend, and on Tuesday, a group of employees and volunteers stood in a circle in the living room, held hands and prayed for the people who will live in the house and the neighbors. The only thing missing now is the tenants, and that’s what has neighbors worried.
The grass is mowed, the flower beds are weed-free and the scent of fresh paint lingers throughout the home.
Carpenter’s Place closed Friday on a three-bedroom ranch home in Rockford. It moved in furniture over the weekend, and on Tuesday, a group of employees and volunteers stood in a circle in the living room, held hands and prayed for the people who will live in the house and the neighbors.
The only thing missing now is the tenants, and that’s what has neighbors worried.
Located in a quiet northwest neighborhood, the home will be used to house three military veterans who are transitioning back into society.
“It’s got the neighbors in an uproar,” next-door neighbor Betty Percey said Tuesday afternoon. “They’ve been exposed to war. What happens if one night one of them goes off the deep end? All of this looks fine and good now, but is it going to last?”
Carpenter’s Place specializes in helping homeless people rebuild their lives. The agency serves as many as 2,000 homeless people a year, 10 percent of whom are U.S. veterans.
Through a special Veterans Affairs program, Carpenter’s Place was able to buy the Ridge Avenue home for $53,437, or half the market price. The only requisite is that the house be used for housing homeless American veterans. Because the home will house only three nonrelated people, no special zoning from the city is required and the sale did not have to go before City Council for approval.
The Ridge Avenue home is the first to be bought by Carpenter’s Place through the Veterans Affairs program, but it is the seventh area home operated by the nonprofit.
Executive Director Kay Larrick is aware of the residents’ concerns, but said the Ridge Avenue tenants will be held to high standards. The tenants will be screened and their progress will be monitored by a case worker. She also said to not help those who put their lives on the line to defend the country is an “injustice.”
“They’re just people like anyone else,” she said. “None of us have guarantees on how anyone who lives in a neighborhood will behave. It would be different if we were trying to put someone in there who doesn’t want help.”
Betty, and her husband, Curlee Percey, sat in their driveway Tuesday afternoon and watched a contingent of Carpenter’s Place workers tour the home. They were joined in their driveway by neighbor Oneal Tennial.
“You see people who have had flashbacks or relapses,” Tenniel said. “A lot of people look normal, but they’re not.”
Barbara Garrison-Harris, also a next-door neighbor to the veterans’ home, expressed her reservations as well.
“First of all, if they don’t have a problem why do they have to be put in a house and watched over? And why didn’t they talk to us before they (bought) the house? And what about the senior citizens here who helped build this neighborhood? Don’t they have any regard for them?”
Larrick is confident that in time, the tenants, with the help of Carpenter’s Place, will prove to the neighbors their fears are unfounded.
“Nobody wants to see these veterans succeed more than we do. I think once we have people in the house who aren’t causing any trouble, that will speak louder than anything I can say.”
Chris Green can be reached at (815) 987-1241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.