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Give Heroes a Real ‘Welcome Home’ This Veterans Day

By Erica Christoffer, Multimedia Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine

On this Veterans Day, take the time to learn what you can do as a real estate professional to make a difference in the lives of returning Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers. One place you can start is heroeswelcomehome.com. This winning Game Changer program was developed by Bill Wald with the Chicago Association of REALTORS® to teach practitioners the best ways they can serve veterans in their community.

The following story ran in the Sunday/Monday edition of Show Daily at the 2010 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in New Orleans this week:

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Bill Wald speaking at the Equal Opportunity and Cultural Diversity Forum during NARdiGras on Friday, Nov. 5

Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan with injuries that have resulted in disabilities. These veterans have special needs when it comes to their homes. That’s where Bill Wald comes in.

Wald, business and professional development senior director at the Chicago Association of REALTORS®, developed Heroes Welcome Home, a program that prepares real estate professionals to work with veterans on their housing needs. “We wanted to educate REALTORS® on the physical and mental disabilities of the men and women coming back from the wars,” said Wald, who presented during the Equal Opportunity  and Cultural Diversity Forum Friday, Nov. 5.

Heroes Welcome Home was one of the 14 winning Game Changer proposals selected by NAR in November 2009. Wald and his team received funds from NAR to develop a curriculum and implement an education program.

Heroes Welcome Home hosted its first two-day professional development program on May 25–26, 2010. The curriculum was taught by Veterans Affairs officials, legal advisers, and medical and home adaptation experts. “Everything we covered is vitally important for a REALTOR® working with a veteran,” said Wald.

The vast majority of soldiers with disabilities are under age 25 and have spouses and children. “It’s really a family situation for everyone, and we really wanted to convey that to people,” Wald said. Between 2002 and 2008, 290,000 veterans entered the VA medical system. Of those, 36.9 percent were diagnosed with a mental illness or addiction. What’s more, 2,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are currently homeless. “To me, that’s just shameful,” Wald said.

REALTORS® need to be equipped with the tools and resources to address the housing needs of veterans, as well as effectively counsel them on grants and financing options available to them, said Wald. The Heroes Welcome Home curriculum is free for other associations to use and can be downloaded from www.heroeswelcomehome.com.

Erica Christoffer

Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing writer and editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at echristoffer@realtors.org.

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