Byron Farrington loves to wear his black Stetson hat and cowboy boots. Now, for the first time in a long while, he’s got a closet to put them in at the end of the day.
Formerly homeless, the Army veteran has settled in at his new place at the Victory II Apartments, a newly opened complex on the former campus of Grace University in Omaha. It’s a vast improvement over his former quarters, beneath a downtown bridge.
“I love it. I can sit in the house and watch TV, or look out the window,” said Farrington, pointing to his third-floor apartment.
Former Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, joined by executives from real estate developer Burlington Capital, snipped a broad red ribbon in the apartment’s parking lot at a ceremony Friday afternoon. About 200 people, most in masks and carefully separated, attended the event.
Kelly, who served as secretary of Homeland Security and chief of staff in the Trump administration, noted that very few Americans serve in the military, or even know anyone who does. The people who do step up are special.
“These are incredible people,” he said. “As Americans, we should be so proud they come from our society. And when they need help, we should give it to them.”
Kelly’s son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The $8.2 million Victory II project was built in partnership with the Omaha Housing Authority and the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development. The building is adjacent to the 90-unit Victory Apartments in the former St. Joseph’s Hospital, which opened in 2013. Burlington Capital also manages a similar complex in Lincoln.
The new building includes community space, laundry facilities and a gym and fitness center. It once housed some of Grace’s administrative offices. More recently, it was home to Salvation Army Mental Health Respite Care, which provided short-term residential treatment.
Project manager George Achola said the veterans range in age from about 30 to 70. For some, the subsidized housing will be transitional while they get back on their feet after dealing with substance abuse, physical injuries or mental health problems. Others may live there permanently.
“We do have some success stories,” he said.
Farrington has a chance to become one of them. He served in the Army at Fort Bragg in North Carolina from 1980 to 1985, supporting Special Forces units there.
In recent years, he has bounced back and forth between Des Moines and Omaha. He got into Victory II Apartments after spending time at the Siena Francis House.
He goes back awhile with some of his veteran neighbors.
“Some of us slept in the streets together, protecting each other,” he said. Now the stress is less.
“I have a home now,” he said proudly.
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