Disgraceful: Charitable Effort by Homes for Our Troops Blocked, Neighborhood Association Denies Home to Injured Vet Because Planned Georgia Home Is “Too Small” (video) « Frugal Café Blog Zone

Disgraceful: Charitable Effort by Homes for Our Troops Blocked, Neighborhood Association Denies Home to Injured Vet Because Planned Georgia Home Is “Too Small” (video)

Posted By on June 23, 2011


What started out as a feel-good charitable effort, a commendable outreach by Homes for Our Troops to provide severely injured military veteran Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family a new home in Georgia has devolved into a nightmare.

After four months of coordination, a neighborhood association’s assessment is suddenly blocking the plans to build the 2,700-square-foot home, denouncing it as “too small.” Reportedly, neighbors in the area now feel the small house would bring their property values down — the house for the Gittens family must be 3,400-square-feet and multi-level for them to even consider approving it, they now say.

Bring property values down because 2,700 square feet is “too small”? Have these chuckleheads read the news lately about the American housing market, especially in Nevada or California? As someone who lives in a home that is decidedly much smaller than 2,700 square feet, I am appalled by this blocking.

Reported by The Augusta Chronicle, Neighbors pull plug on injured vet’s home:

An Evans neighborhood association has blocked a group that was prepared to build a home free of charge for a local veteran who was injured in Afghanistan.

The homebuilding group, Homes for Our Troops, says Knob Hill Property Owners Association approved the home’s design June 2 but reversed its decision in a later meeting.

A member of the association, however, says the group got only a conditional approval, pending a review of its design; the neighborhood is carefully protected by building covenants, and the final design did not fit.

Homes for Our Troops — a national organization that has built or remodeled homes for more than 100 severely injured veterans — had planned to build a house for Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens and his family this weekend. Gittens suffered concussive head injuries while serving in Afghanistan. After he returned home, a brain aneurysm caused a stroke that left him partially paralyzed.

Homes for Our Troops worked for four months with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association to get the design approved, according to John Gonsalves, the group’s founder. But at an association meeting, members said the 2,700-square-foot home was too small and neighbors thought it would bring property values down, Gonsalves said. A cease-and-desist order was issued as the site was being prepared last week.

“We’ve done everything they’ve asked. For them to do this at the last minute is very disturbing,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a community in America that shouldn’t embrace this family after what they’ve sacrificed. No one deserves it more.”

But owners association member Tom Rogers said Homes for Our Troops did not do everything asked of it. The group did not have written approval from the association’s architectural review board, but negotiated through e-mail only.

From WDRW News, Evans neighborhood blocks Homes for Our Troops from building:

Homes for Our Troops received building permits for the project and has been working closely with the Knob Hill Board of Directors, making multiple changes to the plans for the home as requested. The written approval came from Knob Hill BOD President Rick Trump on June 2nd. Late last week, a lawyer for the POA served the contractors on site with a cease and desist letter to stop the preparation of the build site. Facing strong opposition from the Property Owners Association, the Knob Hill Board of Directors and the Property Owners Association met again on June 20th, just four days before the planned kickoff of the home build. Homes for Our Troops was then notified that the house plans do not meet the Knob Hill standards and the original approval was thus rescinded. Homes for Our Troops has now been told that it must begin anew the entire approval process and that the house needs to be at least 3,400-square-feet and multi-level to even be considered.

“Shockingly, it appears that the Knob Hill community has decided it does not want to welcome SFC Gittens and his family, as we were previously told,” said Homes for Our Troops Founder John Gonsalves. “Despite our working closely with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association over the past four months, we find ourselves in an untenable situation. We cannot afford to add 700-square-feet to the house, particularly under our special adaptive plans. And our experience in building over 100 homes dictates that severely injured veterans need a specially adapted single level home. Frankly, this late action begun by the Knob Hill Property Owners means we must suspend working on the home. The Knob Hill Property Owners Association has now assured that SFC Gittens and his family will not be able to have the home they so desperately need. We have done everything in our power to try to resolve this situation, but it appears that the community is not willing to accept this home, and SFC Gittens and his family into the community.”

The General Contractor, Green & Burdette and the hundreds of Evans, Georgia volunteers who were prepared to join the Build Brigade this Friday, June 24th are on standby and ready to mobilize when directed. For more details, please go to www.homesforourtroops.org/knobhillseangittens.

From the Homes for Our Troops website, Knob Hill Board of Directors Reverses Approval of Home for Severely Injured Veteran and Family:

Homes for Our Troops, the national organization which has helped rebuild the lives of over 100 of our most severely injured veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, through the gift of a specially- adapted home, has announced that the Board of Directors of the Knob Hill Property Owners Association in Evans, Georgia has reversed the prior approval by the Association’s President of the size and design of a specially adapted home for SFC Sean Gittens and his family. Building on the 2700 square foot home was to begin this Friday. Homes for Our Troops purchased the land in December and preparations for building the home have been ongoing over the past month. These homes are a reflection of the gratitude of the community and are given mortgage free to the veterans once complete.

This Home for Our Troops video with SFC Gittens’ family was created in December 2010 — so much has happened since then.

SFC Sean Gittens


Update, June 24, reported at WRDW News, from Homes for Our Troops President and Founder John Gonsalves:

Homes for Our Troops has attempted good faith negotiating with the Association since we purchased land in their subdivision last December. We went to significant lengths to satisfy conditions imposed on the build to gain approval, and were completely surprised by the reversal of approval four days before construction was to begin on the home. It is clear from communications we have received from residents in Knob Hill that the position their Board of Directors took is not shared by all the home owners, and we know there are many good people who live in Knob Hill who are happy to have the Gittens family as neighbors.

Homes for Our Troops would like to clear up several misstatements of fact about the situation:

The home fully complies with the Association’s covenants. We build 2,700 square foot homes across the country and give them mortgage free to severely injured veterans. Our home is the same size as a number of other homes in this subdivision and meets the minimum 2,700 square footage specifications listed in other Association documents.

The siding for our planned home is brick, as requested by the association and in keeping with the requirements of the neighborhood. The brick and other materials were part of the drawings approved by the Association’s President.

We have responded to every request made by the Board of Directors and if the Gittens family wishes to pursue having this home built in Knob Hill, we will continue to do so as long as requests are fair and just and made in good faith.

This home for SFC Gittens and his family was approved by email on June 2 by Knob Hill Home Owners Association president Rick Trump. This decision was subsequently reversed around June 9-10 for vague reasons. And this past Monday, four days before we were to begin construction, we were told that our plans were not accepted and that we would have to start the approval process from the beginning. We find this questionable given the numerous adaptations we have made to our plans over the last few months and the size of existing homes in the subdivision.

Homes for Our Troops has built and launched construction on over 100 specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans in over 30 states. We understand how to build a home for a severely injured veteran and know what it takes to marry these requirements with the needs of a local community. We are grateful for the many general contractors, homeowners associations and patriotic neighbors in communities across this country who have not only accepted these severely injured veterans and their families, but have welcomed them with open arms.

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About the author

I'm a conservative frugalist. My priorities: Watchdogging the government, making sure our tax dollars are spent wisely, living within our budgets (at home and in Washington, DC), and adhering to our Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it was developed by our founding fathers. Also, loving God, my family, and my country. Be wise, be frugal. God bless America!      


15 Responses to “Disgraceful: Charitable Effort by Homes for Our Troops Blocked, Neighborhood Association Denies Home to Injured Vet Because Planned Georgia Home Is “Too Small” (video)”

  1. mcnorman says:

    At this point, I would have second thoughts about moving to a place where this behavior is considered acceptable Frugal. Their actions speak loudly. Those who are already living there should worry about what maybe in store for them. We never really know what lies ahead.

    • admin says:

      I agree – this soldier’s family would probably be better off elsewhere. However, the land has already been purchased, so we’ll have to see how this develops.

      No mention of the predominant political affiliation of these clueless association members, but crikey, this has the stench of liberalism and elitist idiocy to me. Not to mention it’s incredibly hostile to our brave military veterans. Most Georgians don’t share this view.

      • Michelle Johnson says:

        It has nothing to due with liberalism or elitist idiocy. In fact, Evans, GA is one of the most staunchest Republican/conservative areas in the country. What is nutty/idiotic about them, besides not allowing this veteran to build a home, is their continued support of the craziest representative in the U.S. Congress, Paul Broun (R). Frankly, I am surprised this story even made it to this website. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why those people are blocking the building of this home and it’s quite antithetical to liberal values.

      • admin says:

        Michelle, thanks for the info. So why do YOU think these home association tyrants are blocking the building of the vet’s home? I have about three theories (and to put a spin on your quote, most are quite antithetical to true conservative values) but since you seem to have intimate knowledge about these people, would love to have your input. The liberal elitism smacks loudly for me, but if I’m wrong on what I’ve derived from the news stories, I’d love to hear what you know about these association people. You obviously have not read this site very often to be “surprised” about this story being posted. I have never been quiet about my devotion and admiration for our military and supporting our vets, my contempt for tyranny and elitism, and my disdain for idiocy and lying – I more often than not poke at idiot RINOs, liberals, statists, hypocrites, liars, bullies, and adulterers on both sides of the political fence, and a host of other folks that torque me off.

        BTW – the few home association head honcho members I’ve ever known here in my state of Arizona, a very red state with pockets of blue, were card-carrying liberals who were intolerant of many things, including the military and patriotism. So one cannot assume one’s political ideology merely by their ZIP code. That would be like assuming there are no conservatives in Hollywood. There are some, but most choose to hide their conservatism to prevent being tarred and feathered by the intolerant Left. If these home association people are conservatives, SHAME on them. I expect much more out of conservatives than I ever do of liberals, expect them to be heads above others with weaker principles. But neither group has perfect people, both have a$$es within them.

  2. Michelle Johnson says:

    I do not live in Evans but I live in a neighboring town in the same county (Columbia County, GA) and am very familiar with the values espoused in this area of the country. I am having a hard time understanding why you think protecting property values smacks of liberalism, it strikes me as a very conservative belief system, i.e., being terrified someone is going to take away their $. And, anyway, their concern about lowered property values has nothing to do with the size of the proposed house. A real estate agent has already stated the home would not affect surrounding property values, so what is it? In terms of liberal intolerance of the military and patriotism, I disagree. Liberals are against outrageous military spending, particularly when it pads the coffers of the likes of Dick Cheney, and recruiting strategies that prey on lower SES and minority populations, who are over-represented in the military. Liberals also don’t despise patriotism, nationalism, especially when it subverts multiculturalism, however is a different story. I served 5 years in the military, with tours in both in Saudi Arabia and Bosnia. My husband served 22 years. I am also a liberal (in case you can’t tell) and it breaks my heart what this community is doing to this soldier.

  3. Virginia says:

    Why is nobody asking why Mr. Gonsalves, who runs the charity, chose to buy such an expensive piece of land in a neighborhood with such high square footage covenants in the first place? Wouldn’t they be able to provide homes for more people if they bought a more economical plot of land? Won’t the utilities, property taxes and upkeep be unaffordable for someone on disability payments? Perhaps Mr. Gonsalves has mixed priorities himself. People are usually happier when they have shared experiences with their neighbors. This does not seem like the best fit to me, and seems like a waste of funds entrusted to him by charitable people. Something is not right with this whole project right from the beginning.

    • Tiffany says:

      You need to do your homework Virginia. The family already rents a house in the neighborhood, therefore, why should she have to up root her family into a new area?

      The kids are already dealing with their dad being in this condition – now you want them to readjust to a new school and more problems that come with it. You are so typical of a bitter nasty wretch.

      • Virginia says:

        Your nastiness shows who the bitter wretch is, actually. Very near Knob Hill is not the same as in the covenanted subdivision. Who said move to another area or another school? Typical liberal storytelling. If the facts don’t back you up, make up a story. The best solution would have been to buy a home or plot in the neighborhood where they already resided, so that the children could keep their friends as well as their school, and AFFORD the upkeep. Just like the cars Oprah gave to people who couldn’t afford the excise tax, this is not doing them any favors.

  4. Michelle Johnson says:

    This family rents a home very near Knob Hill. The mother wanted a home where she felt safe and where the girls could continue to be close to their friends and stay in the same school district. The Home For Troops people were trying to accommodate the family’s wishes. While I appreciate and fully support that charity’s have an obligation to their donors, I believe it was the intention of Home For Troops to build this family a home that caused the least disruption to the children … I mean haven’t they suffered enough? Homes For Troops is looking to other neighborhoods, however, this family is still really hoping that they can get things worked out with the community.

  5. Michelle says:

    Here’s the latest:


    It seems as though they are coming to their senses.

  6. Michelle says:


    Typical conservative, weighing in on a situation when you don’t know what you are talking about. How you could possibly know what the best solutions is? How do you know that there are homes/land available in the neighborhood where they currently live? Why do you assume those homes are more economical? Since you seem to know so much, is it more economical to gut a two story house to turn it into a single story house and make other necessary adaptations for a person in a wheelchair? What do you know about this family’s income to suggest they won’t be able to pay the taxes? Your comment about Oprah giving away cars shows a serious lack of rational thinking. Your logic suggests no one should offer or accept a gift.

  7. SSG Smith says:

    If this were your child or your dad where would your loyalties be.

    This was my first time viewing this site and my first time making a public post but I must add. I am a Disabled Vet, by God’s grace not to the extreme as some others, I must state this situation really hurts my heart. I am still involved in service oriented fields and just wonder is it all worth it. There just seems to be such a lack of appreciation for sacrifices made to our nation and our people. So many have desires for our nation and so few make genuine sacrifices. I don’t know how to put a value on this families sacrifice, My prayers and concerns are with them, the soldier, the wife and their children. God bless the Gittens family and God bless America. Thanks for your service.

  8. Michelle says:

    First, I want to clarify that I made a mistake (due to conflicting news reports) about where this family is currently living. They are, indeed, renting in Knob Hill, which is why the family asked to have a home built there. Unfortunately, Mrs. Gittens decided today she no longer felt comfortable living in the neighborhood. Homes for Our Troops is now looking elsewhere in the Evans area to build this family a home. Here is the latest link. Heartbreaking. I would also like to mention that numerous families in Knob Hill were furious at the decision and are very upset about the situation. However, there were enough people in the community (including Troy Williamson, a professional football player who has never served in the military) that made statements and actions that made Mrs. Gittens feel unwelcome.