Sgt. Michael Stearns served five years in the Marines helping to reinforce the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, during the Arab Uprising. But when he returned home to Massachusetts, he and his girlfriend, Courtney Messenheimer, had a hard time trying to find an affordable place to live.
"It's an experience, definitely. When I came home, I didn't have a job," said Stearns. "I found a job working for my father, but it's pretty tough its kind of overwhelming."
Stearns and Messenheimer said they tried to get a VA loan but they didn't qualify because they were buying a condo and they're not married. Then they heard about MassHousing's program, Operation Welcome Home.
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"We were so happy to be a part of this program," said Messenheimer. "We were really happy that it came out in the timing that we needed."
The Operation Welcome Home program provides zero down payment and competitive rate loans with fewer restrictions than the VA loans for veterans, reservists, National Guard members and surviving spouses of service members killed in action.
The $100 million loan program also protects service members if they're re-deployed.
"If they're called to active duty and deployed, it will help make their mortgage payments while they're deployed and tide them over, help bridge that financial gap until they come back home and are again fully re-employed," said MassHousing Executive Director Tom Gleason.
"Our goal is to try to get to the point where we have no homeless vets," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "Massachusetts is a great state, we should be able to figure that out."
And Gov. Baker says it starts with programs like this one, one homeowner at a time.
"It's nice getting help, definitely," said Stearns. "It's reassuring, and you need it sometimes, unfortunately."
"We're really excited to start our lives, finally put down our roots and settle, hopefully start a family, get married soon," said Messenheimer.