ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A St. Louis non-profit aimed at helping homeless veterans secure housing is beginning work on two new apartments in north St. Louis.
A private citizen donated a vacant building in the 4300 block of Farlin Avenue to the non-profit "Moving Upward STL" in 2018. On Saturday, the organization's founder, Byron Hayes, and several volunteers got inside to begin the demolition process.
"Today is basically just cleaning out the building, as you can see people are dusty and dirty, hands blistering up, just getting it all cleaned out and get it ready for phase II which is putting it back together," Hayes said.
The group of volunteers, including private citizens, community members and the St. Louis Jaycee Foundation helped Hayes sweep up broken glass, remove carpet, pull up floor tiles and knock out dry wall.
Lou Bahrmasel lives in St. Charles County and said he wanted to help improve the image of north St. Louis by lending a hand.
"There’s always been a vision of north St. Louis that’s been troubling and I had an opportunity to give back to the community," he said. "It allows me to actually not just sit back in St. Charles County where everything is pristine for the most part."
Bahrmasel was joined by fellow volunteer Lisa Eckert, who lives in Belleville. She volunteered her time as part of a community service project her employer offers. But for Eckert, the work is personal.
"My dad was a Marine, he served in Korea, and it’s just really important to me to help the veterans," Eckert said. "There are so many that are homeless, and have issues and there are so many suicides … It just overwhelms me and it’s tragic and I want to do everything I can to help the veterans."
Hayes said the goal is to convert the building into two, two-bedroom apartments for homeless veterans by spring of 2021.
According to Hayes, the apartments will be available under the HUD/Veteran Administration's housing initiative - Project HERO.
"Project HERO" (Housing, Employment, Recovery, Opportunities), is a partnership of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Missouri Department of Mental Health and the St. Patrick Center -- who implements the program.
The program began in 2008 with the Washington Avenue Apartments in downtown St. Louis.
Homeless veterans that are eligible for the housing must have been honorably discharged from the military and follow strict rules if they move in. Daily check-ins, weekly drug testing and no alcohol are a few of the rules they must abide by.
In addition, Hayes said he plans to teach the veterans life skills to help them get back on their feet.
"We’ll teach them important skills, job opportunities, economic training, savings plans, so it’s really a well-rounded program to try to get veterans back on their feet, on their own and live independently, that’s the goal," Hayes said.
When the organization begins phase two of the demolition, Hayes said he will need the help of skilled workers like roofers, electricians and plumbers. Phase III will consist of adding furniture and the finishing touches, before turning over the unit to a homeless veteran.
If you are able to offer your skillset and volunteer your time with this project, visit www.movingupward-STL.org or call 314-329-5804.