Opinion: Creating veteran housing exemplifies Manatee County’s spirit of respect

The Manatee County Commission approved an agreement for a long-awaited project that provides housing for homeless veterans, despite a concerted effort by a mysterious group looking to block the West Bradenton facility where the Manatee County Utilities Administration building at 4410 66th St. W. is located.

“This is why we can’t have nice things: Bob Spencer and his NIMBY zealots.” — A rant from a tired Manatee County millennial

As a concerned Manatee County resident and advocate for those who have served our country, I believe offering safe, stable and affordable housing options is a vital step toward ensuring the well-being and dignity of our veterans.

Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to protect our nation and preserve the freedoms we hold dear. But many veterans face significant challenges when transitioning to civilian life, including housing insecurity. It is our responsibility as a community to support them in their transition and provide them with the resources they need to thrive.

In Manatee County, however, veterans face an extra challenge in the form of Bob Spencer who uses his online platform to disgracefully stereotype and falsely label our veterans.

While Mr. Spencer prides himself in being a conservative and has veterans and flags all over his newspaper-looking website, he falls way short on being pro-veteran, which is a rock solid conservative position.

Let’s first set the record straight on the proposed permanent veteran housing in Manatee County:

  • Manatee County never planned to build 500-plus units for veterans on the proposed site at the corner of Cortez Road and 66th Street W. For Mr. Spencer to imply otherwise is simply false. From the beginning, the scope for this project was no more than 150 units.

  • Veteran housing is not government waste. Housing is a benefit vets have earned by the sacrifices they made while serving our county.

  • “Legitimate homeless veterans,” (a phrase in Mr. Spencer’s opinion piece) already have vouchers for housing, but most, if not all, can’t find a place to live because of the stigma people like Mr. Spencer has fostered about people who cannot afford housing in Manatee County.

  • The proposed veteran housing project is not an untested experiment. Tunnel to Towers has more than 20 years of experience helping Wounded Veterans and our community should be grateful for this opportunity to offer our veterans a hand up.

As a social worker who worked with veterans through the Wounded Warriors Project and the Boot Campaign to help expedite veterans into treatment, I am excited for this project. I struggled to find affordable housing for vets when I worked at a local PTSD treatment facility.

By offering affordable housing options for veterans, we are honoring their service and investing in the future well-being of our entire community.

I applaud the efforts of Tunnel to Towers and its commitment to create affordable, permanent housing opportunities for veterans. And I thank them for their tireless efforts to improve the lives of veterans throughout the country.

I encourage everyone to ignore NIMBY zealots like Mr. Spencer and to work with community stakeholders, government agencies and local businesses to make this veteran housing initiative a reality. Dedication to this cause exemplifies the values of compassion, solidarity and respect that Manatee County has for our veterans.

Let’s work together to preserve the character of our county, the one I feel in in love with when I moved here almost 10 years ago. While concerns are natural, let’s approach change with an open mind, embracing new opportunities while addressing any potential challenges.

By engaging in constructive conversations, we can find solutions that benefit everyone. Our community’s strength lies in its unity, and by resisting NIMBY rhetoric like Bob Spencer’s, we can create a vibrant county that welcomes positive developments and maintains its unique charm.

Fellow millennials and Gen Z, let’s strive to be informed, involved, and considerate of one another, nurturing a place we’re proud to call home.

Evelyn Almodóvar is chair of the Manatee County Democratic Party. To submit an op-ed, email a document that is close to 670 words to editor@bradenton.com