A group dedicated to preserving the dignity of veterans by helping to build affordable housing for them broke ground on a four-unit building on upper King Street Monday.

When the building opens six months from now, it will put a small dent in the affordable housing crisis for men and women who have served in the nation's military. Geona Shaw Johnson, director of the city's Housing and Community Development Department, said currently there are 853 veterans in the city of Charleston who are homeless.

The group P.A.S.T.O.R.S., Inc., a community development organization, will build the $400,000, four-unit building at 711 King, on land owned by the adjacent Wallingford Presbyterian Church.

It will be built largely with money from contributions including: $99,000 from the city of Charleston; $50,000 from the Home Depot Foundation; $50,000 from the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation and $40,000 from The Presbyterian Women Creative Ministry.

The group will borrow the remaining $150,000 from Wells Fargo, said F.A. Johnson, director of development for P.A.S.T.O.R.S.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who attended the ground-breaking event, said "It's very hard to build affordable housing. It's expensive and requires partnerships."

City Councilman James Lewis, whose home is adjacent to the new building, said the project is important because "there are a lot of homeless veterans in this city, state and country, and a lot of them are struggling to find affordable housing."

According to P.A.S.T.O.R.S website, Wallingford will provide permanent housing to the veterans in the new building through the HUD-VASH Program, in which veterans will be provided Section 8 assistance for their housing.

F.A. Johnson said rent likely will be about $700. But the amount each tenant pays will depend on the amount of the voucher the individual veteran receives from HUD through the Housing Authority.

The group also plans to eventually build more veterans housing on land owned by Morris Brown AME Church.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.