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Serving military veterans at Valor on Eighth
At the young age of 17, Romaldo “Ro” Gonzalez felt the call to serve his country. He joined the Marine Corps and set off on a six-year adventure traveling the world.
Gonzalez’s time in the service was like none other and today the veteran is back among what he thinks of as a “brotherhood and sisterhood” as a resident at Tempe’s Valor on Eighth, an affordable housing community focused on veterans and their families. Gonzalez was among the first veterans to move into the 50-unit community in January 2018.
“I feel blessed and fortunate,” Gonzalez said. “Where I was staying before wasn’t the nicest area and the apartments were nowhere near what they are at Valor. It’s definitely a step above.”
“I think it’s wonderful that the City of Tempe is willing to go all out for veterans,” he said.
Place to call home
Valor on Eighth is located on what once was city-owned land near Rural Road and Eighth Street, just south of University Drive. The project is a collaboration between the city and co-developers Gorman & Company, Inc., and the nonprofit Save the Family Foundation of Arizona.
The Tempe community is unique in that it offers veterans a wide range of wraparound services such as job training and financial literacy education, as well as a computer lab, all on site. The services are offered through Save the Family, whose Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program serves homeless veterans.
In addition, Valor has two classrooms for free on-site preschool offered through the Head Start program, which will serve families living at Valor and other members of the community.
Valor also features a colorful playground, plenty of outdoor seating and covered parking. Valor is located near Arizona State University, local restaurants and other city amenities, making it easy for residents to walk or bike to their destinations or use transit services like light rail.
The Valor on Eighth community – designed with veterans and their families in mind – is the first of its kind in Arizona. It is one of a handful of similar communities nationwide, and the model for a similar project being built by Gorman in Madison, Wisconsin, said Brian Swanton, the company’s president and chief executive officer.
Proud to serve
The City of Tempe is dedicated to serving and honoring military veterans through a wide range of efforts and initiatives focused on housing, social services, homelessness, education, wellness, and problem-solving within the courts system. The Tempe Veterans Commission advises city leaders and city departments on veteran programs, policies and practices designed to improve the quality of life for veterans in the city.
Vice Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage, an Army veteran, began a Tempe veterans’ initiative with former Councilmember Corey Woods a few years ago. Valor on Eighth grew out of an identified need for housing that focused on veterans and their families.
“Tempe values are about families and community, and when someone is in need we work to tailor services around their circumstances,” Arredondo-Savage said. “Valor on Eighth is unique. It’s a bright and welcoming place that embraces veterans who need a family-oriented environment and that contributes to our community’s quality of life.”
“Valor is a point of pride that aligns with our character as a city,” she said.
Gonzalez, 48, is the father of two adult children and a teenage son. His new two-bedroom apartment is perfect for him and his son, who lives there during the summer and on weekends. The playground is also fun when his grandchildren visit.
A social butterfly, Gonzalez has made many friendships at Valor and enjoys helping veterans access things like food boxes or gently-used furniture for their apartments.
Gonzalez, who works in restaurant management, also runs a nonprofit organization focused on engaging and assisting veterans.
The new Tempe community couldn’t be a better fit for Gonzalez.
“With veterans, there’s a brotherhood and sisterhood,” he said. “Once you find out someone’s a veteran it’s like an automatic bond amongst everybody.”
Learn more about Tempe’s military and veteran resources here.