HUMBOLDT PARK — Hipolito Roldan has often questioned why he survived the Vietnam War while many of his friends and fellow servicemen did not.
Roldan found some semblance of an answer with the grand opening Tuesday of a veterans housing complex that his organization has been working to make a reality for more than three years.
"It's going to be a place of hope that will work on healing people whose lives have been destroyed by war," said Roldan, 73, president of the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation.
The new building is the first of its kind geared toward veterans that Roldan's group has worked on during its 40 years as a community development corporation.
The project is the organization's 53rd project.
The 65th Infantry Regiment "Borinqueneers" Veterans Housing building will permanently serve as rental housing at 1045 N. Sacramento Ave. for veterans living on the Northwest Side of Chicago.
The project includes 49 apartments. Thirty-eight of the units will be for veterans with incomes at 60 percent of the area median income or lower and 10 of the units will be reserved for veterans making 30 percent or less of the area median income.
The development is named after a military unit that has fought in every war since the Spanish-American War of 1898, the 65th Infantry Regiment known as the Borinqueneers, a Puerto Rican regiment of the Army.
The 65th Infantry was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in April.
No one has moved into the building yet, but residents are expected in the next few weeks.
The Hispanic Housing Development Corporation is out in the city recruiting veterans to move in, working with homeless shelters, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and driving around the city seeking out the homeless in places such as under viaducts.
"For me, I never felt any guilt about survival, but I did feel this responsibility to do the best I could with what life I had left to live," Roldan said.
Roldan was the first employee of the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation when it launched 40 years ago and said he is proud to be its president this year as it celebrates the 40th year helping communities.
The four-story building is a joint effort between the organization and Norwegian American Hospital, which is next to the new building.
The hospital donated the land for the building and will provide help with on-site access to services including mental health, employment training and educational programming.
There were a number of other entities that helped with funding including the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the City of Chicago and Home Depot, which supplied a $400,000 grant.
"It's our turn here to make life a little easier for those folks," Roldan said of veterans of war.
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