Army veteran earns mortgage-free home from Operation Homefront

Jonathan Kaupanger
September 21, 2018 - 1:37 pm

Photo by Operation Homefront

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When Army veteran Justin Pecorano opened the email from Operation Homefront, letting him know he was a homeowner, he cried.  “I was sitting next to my wife,” he said, his voice still cracks with emotion when talking about the day. “I jumped off the couch and started jumping up and down and simultaneously cried.  My wife was freaking out.  I finally calmed down for a few seconds and told her.  And she broke down and cried.”

The Pecorano’s are the 500th family to receive a home, mortgage-free from Operation Homefront (OH).

Justin enlisted in the Army in 2006.  He deployed three times during his term of service, in 2006, 2009, and 2011 – all to Afghanistan. He was hurt while on active duty and suffers from injuries to his back, shoulder, knee and elbow.  Due to his time spent operating an anti-tank missile system, he has tinnitus as well.  He was medically separated in 2014 but just wasn’t financially ready to get out at that time.

With many different programs to help veterans, Justin zeroed in on OH’s Homes on the Homefront (HOTH) program.  “I can say I was a little skeptical at first when I read they were handing over keys,” Justin said. “I decided to take the chance and apply.  Then going through the steps and learning more about the program, it all makes sense.”

The HOTH program is pretty simple.  Veterans with an honorable discharge apply at OH, once selected they are matched with a home.  The HOTH program lasts between 2 – 3 years, during this time participants live almost rent free as tenants of Operation Homefront. 

Tenants pay rent which is used to go towards the property tax on the home.  It also pays for any escrow or closing fees that might come at the end of the program when participants are given the deed to the home.  “Before I moved in the Homes on the Homefront home, I was in a smaller home and was paying about $1,500 a month in rent, no utilities included and there was no chance of that home being mine.  Ever.”

The part of the program that helped the Pecorano’s the most is the financial counseling they received from OH.  Families are expected to meet quarterly with their financial counselor.  “Basically, it was handing over the keys to all of my finances,” Justin said. 

Before the HOTH program, the Pecorano’s were living off of credit cards and had maybe $200 in their savings. With help from his financial counselor, Justin and his wife Ashley came up with a plan and hit their goal a full eight months ahead of time!  They paid down more than $11,000 of debt, saved about $4,000 and invested around $2,000 back into their three-bedroom home.

“That was really big for me,” said Justin.  “When I started the program, I didn’t think I could save that much in two years.  Working with the financial counselor and getting that education about my finances, I think I’ve grown so much as an adult.  I mean the majority of my adult life I was looking at my finances the entirely wrong way it’s just changed so much for the positive and out savings account is continuing to grow and our debt is coming down.”

“We are so proud of Justin and his family for completing the Homes on the Homefront program and earning the deed to this home,” said Brig Gen (ret) Robert Thomas, chief operating officer of Operation Homefront.  “We are also excited and thrilled to reach the milestone of deeding 500 homes to veterans and military families, and are very proud to be able to provide this life-changing assistance in their time of need because they have served all of us in our nation’s time of need.”

“It’s a lot less stress on us,” laughs Justin.  “It’s opened up the opportunity – I don’t want to say the opportunity to relax, but step back a little and focus on furthering our education to help our future.  We’re able to put money away for our kids and their education now.”

You can learn more about Operation Homefront and apply for one of their programs here.

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