Multiple people standing outside of Mather Veterans Village, smiling and holding a blue ribbon, with another man standing in front with a large pair of blue scissors ready to cut the ribbon.

Mather Veterans Village Welcomes Servicemembers Home

With the wave of a ceremonial American flag, the City of Rancho Cordova celebrated the dedication of Mather Veterans Village on October 11, 2021. Built in three phases and completed this summer, Mather Veterans Village is one of Mercy Housing California’s (MHC’s) newest permanent supportive housing communities in the Sacramento area, providing more than 100 former service members exiting homelessness with affordable, service-enriched homes.

“It’s a thrill to see what we can do together to end homelessness when we put aside political differences and act as if our neighbors’ lives depend on our actions—because they do,” said Doug Shoemaker, President of MHC, who emceed the event.

Located on a former U.S. Air Force base just blocks from a Veteran’s Affairs hospital, Mather includes two 50-unit permanent housing buildings managed by Mercy Housing, as well as a transitional housing community with 47 apartments. Residents enjoy free, onsite services from MHC partner Nation’s Finest, including case management, counseling, resource navigation support, and organized social opportunities.

Since the first phase of Mather Veterans Village opened in 2016, dozens of residents have stabilized their lives in partnership with Nation’s Finest. One former resident, Susan, overcame her substance abuse disorder and saved enough money to purchase her own home, where she now resides with her elderly mother. At October’s dedication, resident William “Cowboy” Huneke Sr. was celebrated for recovering from his own substance abuse issues and progressing from chronic homelessness, to a temporary stint in transitional housing, to an independent life at Mather Veterans Village. “Here, I feel like I’ve got a chance,” said William.

Mather Veterans Village and other communities like it represent a noteworthy triumph in California’s tough fight against homelessness. Between 2007 and 2020, California’s homeless veteran population dropped by 32% – more than any other group – thanks in large part to bipartisan support for veteran services and the use of research-driven strategies such as permanent supportive housing (National Alliance to End Homelessness). Around the country, more than 80 cities and states have declared “victory” over veteran homelessness, meaning those jurisdictions have successfully deemed homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring for their veteran residents. While California has a long way to go in tackling its homelessness crisis, these trends should give all concerned constituents hope about what can be achieved when stakeholders prioritize service-enriched affordable housing.

“Lots of other places have space they could turn into veterans’ villages, but it takes a certain kind of community to decide to do it – and that place is Rancho Cordova,” said Doug Shoemaker. “We’re hoping this isn’t just a one-off, but a model for other communities around the country.”

In addition to the City and County of Rancho Cordova and Nation’s Finest, Mercy Housing California thanks the following partners, without whom the success of Mather Veterans Village would not have been possible: California Tax Credit Allocation Committee; Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program, a partnership with California Department of Housing and Community Development, California Department of Veterans Affairs, and California Housing Finance Agency; California Department of Finance; US Department of Veterans Affairs; VA Northern California Health Care System; The Home Depot Foundation; Exchange Bank; Wells Fargo; Local Initiatives Support Corporation; and Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency.