Group looks at other sites for paralyzed vet's home

Homes for Our Troops formally announced at a press conference today they would not build a home for paralyzed veteran Sean Gittens at the Knob Hill subdivision in Evans.

Standing next to the Gittens family at the site where the home would have been built over the weekend, the group’s founder, John Gonsalves, said he was sad to be looking at an empty lot instead.

Homes for Our Troops has built homes free of charge for over 100 severely disabled veterans nationwide. Gonsalves said it’s the first time a build has been blocked by a homeowners association.

“We know that this is no way is a reflection on the community of Knob Hill and the people that live in here … We do this all over the country and we know that the American people are behind it,” Gonsalves said. 

He said he would remain in Georgia for a few more days to talk with other developers who have stepped forward.

The Knob Hill Property Owners Association did not attend the press conference. Its president sent his regrets by e-mail, Gonvalves said.  

 The association had blocked construction of the Gittens home after months of negotiations because it believed the house would lower neighboring property values. Homes for Our Troops said it would continue to work to get a design approved, but ultimately left the decision up to the Gittens family, which currently rents a home in the subdivision.

 “I didn’t want to put any kind of pressure on the family to think that because we had already bought this lot, that this was the end game, that it had to be here,” Gonsalves said. “I couldn’t live with my own conscience if I did that … they need to feel fine with where it is that we are going to build this home.”

Sharon Gittens, Sean’s wife, told news media Monday the family decided not to stay in Knob Hill because they did not feel they would be welcome. At the press conference, she said was ready to put the situation behind her and thanked neighbors who had supported her family. She asked them to encourage the association to embrace the veterans and not worry so much about property values.

Asked about the association she said, “I think if this was important to them, a least one representative from the board would have been here today.”

 

Reach Carole Hawkins at (706) 823-3341, or carole.hawkins@augustachronicle.com.


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