Landlord Spotlight: Alvarado Landowner Taps VASH Program to Help Homeless Veterans

Ava Ayers-Spencer had an 18-acre Alvarado homestead and a heart for helping others when she met a homeless Vietnam veteran who had been sleeping on the streets of Cleburne more than three years ago.

Ava Ayers-Spencer converted her family’s 18-acre homestead to a small community for previously homeless veterans.

Her land included a small, vacant house where her mother had lived, an assortment of other cottages and room to add more. Spencer invited the veteran to stay there, stepping onto a path that would lead her and her husband, local high school ROTC instructor Col. Mark Spencer, to develop Colonel’s Corral.

The “little community” is now home to nine military veterans and family members who needed a safe, healthy home and support while they work toward independence and stability. The Spencers partnered with Fort Worth Housing Solutions in 2018 to help residents access housing assistance vouchers through HUD’s Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program. The program combines vouchers for rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Spencer is the kind of valuable landlord who makes the program work, says Lana Nelson, FWHS lead inspector.

“She truly cares about the residents she helps. She wants to make sure she follows regulations HUD requires to meet minimum housing quality standards in her units, and she actually goes beyond just the minimum requirements. She and the other tenants in her units provide a good support system for each other.”

Spencer says her work is about “human dignity.”

“To me, it’s saying to someone, “You are worth it. You deserve safety and to be able to sleep without worrying that someone will take your wallet or hurt you,” she says.