Affordable Housing Dedication Ceremony Remembers Veteran Norman Gerson

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he now lives in Norman H. Gerson’s former home. (WHAV News photograph.)

Norman H. Gerson.

Norman H. Gerson’s Haverhill story and legacy will go on with the dedication one day after Veterans Day of a new 44-unit veterans housing complex that bears his name.

Gerson, who rose to first lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II, operated the Gerson Furniture Co. until 2007 on the site of the new veterans’ development at 181 Washington St. At a ceremony Thursday morning, Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini thanked the Coalition for a Better Acre of Lowell and Veterans Northeast Outreach center of Haverhill for keeping the Gerson name.

“The Gerson family and my own family go back a long, long way since their immigrant family started off as next-door neighbors to mine down on River Street. Later on, the Gersons bought this building—or the building that was here—ran a furniture store here for many, many decades. Norman Gerson moved up to Macon Avenue in Haverhill, bought a house there and, when he retired, I bought his house and live in it to this day,” Fiorentini said.

Gerson died in 2011 at age 95.

The mayor said there should never be a homeless veteran and 32 of the 44 apartments being dedicated will help veterans. The remaining 12 will be rented by low- and moderate-income families to address, in Fiorentini’s words, the “incredible shortage” of housing. As an example of the shortage, Fiorentini noted, 470 other households sought the affordable units.

State Rep. Andy X. Vargas agreed that providing affordable housing is a priority.

“We need, yes, more housing production; yes, more affordable housing; yes, we need to make sure that we’re taking care especially of our veterans, and we have an amazing organization leading that charge here in Haverhill—VNOC—and I want to give them a round of applause,” he said.

Vargas said the local legislative delegation, led by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, this week secured a $50,000 state earmark for Veterans Northeast Outreach Center.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan also spoke to the housing shortage, noting the federal low-income housing tax credit is the “largest source of affordable housing in the country.” She thanked the two organizations for building the project

“When I visited VNOC here in Haverhill last year, this project was still under construction, but there was so much anticipation and excitement around it because of the prospects of the contribution to folks in our community, especially our veterans in need of quality, affordable housing,” she said.

Veterans Northeast Executive Director Edward V. Mitchell pointed out that with the new housing comes many services to support veterans.

“With the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center located just at the top of the hill, at St. Rita’s Church, we hope that we will become part of each veteran’s families here at the Gerson Building and help them build exciting memories together,” he said.

Mitchell explained the Center additionally provides food services, knowledge and help.

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Veterans Northeast Executive Director Edward V. Mitchell addresses the audience as Congresswoman Lori Trahan and Rep. Andy X. Vargas look on. (WHAV News photograph.)

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