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Veterans housing program to break ground

Long Island Home Builders Care will break ground Monday in Sound Beach for the first house to be built as part of its affordable housing program for veterans.

Staff Sgt. Omar Domenech -- the recipient of the home -- and his wife, son and daughter will be in attendance along with local government officials and members of Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249.

A Brooklyn native, Domenech has served three tours of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq, is a Purple Heart recipient and assisted in recovery efforts in the aftermaths of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. He now works as a social worker helping returning veterans adjust to society.

Domenech was selected by a committee of VFW Post 6249 members from a pool of 50 veteran applicants and will be purchasing the home -- a three-bedroom high ranch -- for $100,000, said Lois Fricke, the director of development for Home Builders Care.

The Domenech family plans to move into the house in November. "We were very happy to hear that we were selected," Domenech said last night. "At the same time, we're very humbled and grateful to the folks at Home Builders Care, the VFW and everyone involved. It's a great opportunity for me and my family."

Fricke said the program began in 2009 as part of efforts by Home Builders Care, the nonprofit arm of Long Island Builders Institute, to assist Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

There are about 153,000 veterans in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Sal Thomas, the public affairs specialist for the Northport VA Medical Center, said affording housing is one of the biggest problems facing veterans on Long Island.

The program will be building homes on both private and municipal land. The property for the first house in Sound Beach was donated by Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties.

Following the construction of the Sound Beach house, Home Builders Care will build on two pieces of land donated by the Town of Brookhaven. The veterans to buy those homes will be chosen by lottery in accordance with Suffolk County's 72-H Affordable Housing Program, Fricke said.

She added there are plans to build on eight additional properties donated by private parties. "More than anything I want people to know about this so veterans will come out and apply," she said.

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