A dedication to providing dignified affordable housing for individuals from all walks of life
VBC Giving Foundation, a nonprofit that provides affordable housing for vulnerable communities, is committed to addressing the housing crisis.
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Enlisting in the military is a big decision for any individual to make.
With all the mental and physical strain that comes with life as a military veteran, life as a civilian often doesn’t get much easier after the return from deployment.
Among the many challenges several veterans face upon their return is a lack of housing.
One organization is committed to helping veterans reacclimate into civilian life with dignified housing opportunities — VBC Giving Foundation.
The organization is led by its president, Dana Spain. A serial entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist, Spain has spent decades finding ways to help others and give back.
VBC Giving Foundation is the charitable arm of Volumetric Building Companies (VBC), a global modular construction company that builds affordable housing for those experiencing homelessness.
“VBC Giving Foundation came out of the idea that I know how to build buildings, and it’s time for our veterans and other vulnerable populations to have safe, respectable, affordable housing,” Spain said during an interview with AL DÍA.
It started out as a company constructing residential single-family modular homes in Philadelphia, but Spain had bigger aspirations.
In her words, Spain wanted to “become an industry disruptor.”
VBC Giving Foundation’s Veteran Lead Executive
In January 2023, the VBC Giving Foundation appointed Staff Sergeant John P. Jones, a decorated military veteran, as its new executive director.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Jones moved to the small military town of Enid, Oklahoma. At 17, he made the decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I decided that this was my pathway and my life forward because being a small kid from Oklahoma, it was really eye-opening whenever you got to travel the world,” said Jones during an interview with AL DÍA.
Aware that there were many beautiful places domestically and internationally, Jones wanted to incorporate traveling into his career and did so through his military experience.
However, during his second combat deployment in Iraq — about a decade into his military career — Jones was severely injured after hitting a double-stacked anti-tank, causing him to lose both legs below the knees.
That injury forced Jones to go in an entirely different trajectory, one that Jones didn’t necessarily want to take.
“I love the Marine Corps,” he said. “I loved the camaraderie, I loved the brotherhood, I loved the rich history of the Marine Corps.”
However, upon being forced to take his career in a different direction and medically retire from the Marine Corps in 2007, he has since become an experienced and valued professional in the nonprofit sector.
His first job outside of the military was as the director of the Wall Street Warfighters in Philadelphia.
Over the years, Jones has developed a strong reputation in advocating for veterans, helping train, educate, and place transitioning service members and also seek to help end veteran suicides.
However, he felt that the opportunity to help lead the VBC Giving Foundation as its executive director was as if he was “called back home.”
That word “home” is very important to Jones, and his approach to his work at the organization.
“Our mission is clear and simple,” he said. “To revitalize the dream of having a place that everyone is proud to call home.”
Addressing Barriers to Affordable Housing
For the VBC Giving Foundation, Spain serves as the Director of Community Relations.
In the role, she teaches developers how to build affordable housing in an affordable manner “because a lot of affordable housing projects are not built affordably, and therefore they’re not attractive to developers,” said Spain.
It’s an endeavor that she is passionate about addressing considering the affordable housing crisis going on in Philadelphia, and across the United States,
According to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are over 582,000 people experiencing homelessness across the nation.
In Philadelphia, there are about 5,700 individuals who are considered to be homeless, including about 950 who are unsheltered.
Those numbers tell a very glaring story; however, Spain brings another valid point to the conversation.
“As much as we see on the news of homeless encampments, and you see in Philadelphia all the time, somebody on a street corner with a cardboard sign, there’s very little talk about how do we get ourselves out of this situation,” said Spain.
That’s where VBC Giving Foundation comes in.
The mission resonates greatly for Jones, as he knows many fellow military veterans who are living in substandard housing.
He underscored that much of the issue lies in the lack of income and resource support for those leaving the military.
“It’s key for us to be able to place veterans in safe affordable housing, where they can live, grow, and have extra things to make their lives much easier,” said Jones.
The crisis, however, goes far beyond just military vets.
The affordable housing crisis also affects children aging out of foster care, abuse survivors, seniors, refugees, and more.
“There is no safety net for them,” said Spain. “There’s very few programs, and the programs that are out there are really done by individual charities, not government agencies so they’re left on their own devices.”
The goal is for no one to feel like they have to go through these challenges alone.
It Takes A Village
On Monday, May 1, 2023, the VBC Giving Foundation will officially launch Veterans Village, a 47-unit construction permanent housing community, in Philadelphia.
It marks the VBC Giving Foundation’s first major project to address the homelessness crisis for veterans and under vulnerable communities.
“The village concept across the board is that putting people together who are struggling with the same issues gives a foundation for success,” said Spain.
The Veterans Village sets itself apart from other projects, as the goal is to help as many people as possible simultaneously.
“We’re going the route of the village concept so that we can help more people in short order than one family at a time,” she added.
From a veteran standpoint, Jones believes it’s important to take the lessons learned over decades prior and apply them to work toward a better future.
The key to it, as he states, is volunteerism.
“There’s nothing more powerful than a volunteer,” said Jones.
Addressing the affordable housing crisis will take a team of volunteers and partnering organizations.
Spain noted, “We can’t build enough units on our own through the Giving Foundation or through VBC… so, as much as our goal is to build as many villages as we can, our overarching goal is to be able to attract like-minded individuals in housing, whether that’s charitable organizations, eventually government agencies, for-profit developers to understand our process and have us help them help us dig our way out of this situation.”
“There’s an old saying that, ‘if you’ve got a child, it takes a village to raise them,’” added Jones. “We’re doing the exact same thing by housing people.”
VBC Giving Foundation seeks to be an open source program for the housing crisis plaguing Philadelphia, and the United States.