Berkshire Eagle: Soldier On gets grant to aid in N.Y. training

Friday June 22, 2012

PITTSFIELD — Soldier On has received a $300,000 federal grant to provide employment training for veterans in 18 counties of eastern New York.

Two of those counties, Columbia and Rensselaer, border Berkshire County. A nonprofit, Soldier On provides services to homeless veterans at facilities in Pittsfield and Leeds. The veterans in Pittsfield live at the Gordon Mansfield Veterans Community on West Housatonic Street.

Soldier On’s funding targets employment training for 110 homeless veterans who live in the four counties of Western Massachusetts, said President and CEO John F. Downing. The funding goes into effect July 1.

Downing said the grant funding shows that the U.S. Veteran’s Administration and the Department of Labor realize places such as Soldier On need to be proactive to find veterans who can access their services.

“They realize that we have to go out and find these vets,” Downing said. “We can’t wait for them to come to us. The VA serves 25 to 29 percent of the vets because they wait for them to come.

“These grants put us out there in finding the veterans and giving them the services that we can give,” he said.

Soldier On is one of five veterans organizations from across the state that received a total of $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to provide homeless veterans job training that will help them succeed in civilian careers. Nationally, 64 grants totaling more than $15 million have been awarded to provide 8,600 homeless vets with job training skills.

The funding, awarded through the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, will go toward assisting homeless veterans with reintegration into the work force. Under this program, homeless veterans may receive occupational, classroom and on-the-job training as well as job search and placement assistance, including follow-up services.

Those receiving grants coordinate their efforts with various local, state and federal social service providers to ensure the employment of veterans who are homeless.

“It’s a life-saver for vets who have been struggling in the transition back into civilian life,” said U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass.

For Soldier On, the funding continues a program that began in November, when the nonprofit received a $1 million grant from a program associated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to help at-risk veterans and their families avoid falling into homelessness in those same 18 counties.

So far, that program has housed 154 previously homeless veterans and has served a total of 484 veterans, spouses and children.To reach Tony Dobrowolski:,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow