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Soldier On Facility Planned in Plymouth, NH.

Jan 14, 2012 12:00 am

PLYMOUTH — A group of people is working to bring a permanent home for veterans to the Plymouth area. The facility will be a product of the Soldier On non-profit organization, which has 15 sites in nine states and is considered the best in the business of caring for homeless veterans.

“It’s the gold standard,” Cathy Bentwood said about Soldier On.

Bentwood is the executive director of the Bridge House in Plymouth, which provides resources and shelter to persons in crisis. Bentwood said she and others started a discussion about a year ago to think of a way to provide services designed for the specific needs of veterans. In July, town Selectman Valerie Scarborough brought her an article about Soldier On’s unique model.

“This is a really beautiful model,” said Bentwood.

About two months ago, the coalition of entities pursuing the project received word from Soldier On that the organization was as interested in Plymouth as Plymouth was in Soldier On.

In addition to Bentwood, those furthering the local project include the Lakes Region United Way’s Joyce Palmer, former state senator Deb Reynolds, representatives from local and county government, Alex Ray of the Common Man and others.

What makes Soldier On unique, compared to a conventional homeless shelter, is that it offers permanent housing, in which residents have an ownership stake, with the services they need to get their lives back on track. Services include mental health therapy, substance abuse counseling, job training and even employment opportunities.

At some of its facilities, such as the one in Pittsfield, Mass., Soldier On operates an emergency shelter, a transitional facility and a permanent housing arrangement. Bentwood said the plan for the Plymouth-area facility, which will be the first Soldier On project in New Hampshire, will only offer long-term housing as there are pre-existing shelters and transitional services for veterans in the region.

Bentwood said the state’s official count of homeless veterans is reported as about 450, though she thinks the actual figure is likely much higher. Bentwood believes veterans are especially vulnerable to finding themselves in crisis. In addition to the human failings that all people are susceptible to, veterans might be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder or, increasingly, traumatic brain injury. Symptoms from these afflictions might make it difficult for veterans to find or hold a job in an already meager jobs market.

The facility that is planned for the Plymouth area would have space for about 50 veterans living in small, single-residency units. By the time they’re ready to move into the facility, the concept holds, the veterans would have already reached a point of stability and would be ready for employment. Veterans would buy their way into the facility by paying an initial fee of about $2,500, and then would pay a relatively small, inclusive monthly rent, such as $500. If the veterans choose to move out, they would “sell” their share back to the cooperative.

Organizers are still looking for a site to build the facility. Nick and Melissa Gretz have offered to donate a parcel in Thornton to the cause, Bentwood reported, and that land is being evaluated for its suitability.

Taylor Caswell, president of the Soldier On Development Company, the construction subsidiary of the non-profit, said facilities are typically built for $100,000 to $125,000 per unit. For a 50-unit project, the estimated total cost would be between $5-million and $6.25-million. Buildings are designed to be “very sustainable,” with photo-voltaic electricity generation and high-efficiency boilers to keep costs low for residents. HUD vouchers will help ensure that residents who aren’t able to earn enough money will be able to pay their rent, while funding from the Veterans Administration pays for services.

Money to pay for the initial cost of construction is cobbled together from what’s available, Caswell said. “We try to take advantage of whatever we can get our hands on.” In past projects, funding schemes have utilized state and federal grants, financing provided by local lenders and the sale of tax credits.

Caswell said that a key point of Soldier On’s success is that the facilities operate as a cooperative of residents, with each facility its own corporate structure led by an elected board of directors. The residents have collective ownership of their fate – they decide who is welcome to move in and they are empowered to govern themselves.

“We don’t have a lot of guys walking around in suits and ties telling veterans what do to, we have veterans telling veterans what to do,” he said. Veterans have a natural sense of duty and camaraderie, he said, and they develop a strong, supportive community that keeps each resident moving toward a brighter future. “It has worked exceptionally well,” he said. “The community ends up becoming a family.”

“We’re thrilled to looking at doing something in New Hampshire,” said Caswell. “There’s a great need.

 

Click Here To Read the Original Article.

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Soldier On Leads the Way Nationally on Women Vets in Crisis:

NORTHAMPTON, Mass., Oct. 5 Soldier On-female-vets

Soldier On offers housing, access to services in the nation’s only program designed for and managed by women veterans

NORTHAMPTON, Mass., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — At a time when Americans are just beginning to pay attention to the special challenges faced by women who have served in the military, the Northampton-based non-profit Soldier On has created a national model for helping women veterans in crisis. Soldier On, which was created in 1994 with the goal of ending veteran homelessness, has operated a unique program for women veterans since 2005. Following the model Soldier On has employed with male veterans, the women’s program focuses on resident veterans managing their housing and providing mutual support.

Jackie K’s House, which is located in a duplex leased from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Leeds, Mass., provides housing for 12 women veterans. Unlike the men housed at Soldier On’s nearby shelter and in its transitional living facility in Pittsfield, most of the women who reside at Jackie K’s House do not come from the street, shelters or jails. Most turn to Soldier On when their living situations become untenable, due in large part to substance abuse issues and other effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Like Soldier On’s program for men, Jackie K’s house offers veterans in crisis access to treatment and counseling, job training and education while living in an atmosphere of integrity, dignity and hope.

Concerns about a growing level of homelessness among women veterans have recently come to the fore with the VA vowing to make strides in addressing the issue. The problem of homelessness among women veterans has been heightened by an unprecedented number of women returning home from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Studies indicate that PTSD, which can take as long as 15 years to surface in male veterans, manifests much more quickly in women. The effects of PTSD, which can include addiction, rage issues and an inability to reintegrate to civilian life and family situations, are driving more and more women out of their homes.

As the VA starts to explore the issues related to female veterans, Soldier On offers a successful four-year-old model. At the same time, Soldier On is taking the next step in its work with women veterans. The organization’s forthcoming first-of-its-kind limited equity housing project for formerly homeless veterans will include units set aside for women veterans.

The limited equity housing project, scheduled to move into construction October 29 in Pittsfield, Mass., will offer formerly homeless veterans the opportunity to become homeowners. Soldier On’s goal is to “change the end of the story” for homeless veterans by providing them with the chance to own their homes surrounded by the services they need throughout their lives.

The groundbreaking for the 39-unit Pittsfield project will be attended by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Services, as well as Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, and Stephen Coyle, CEO of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, Gordon Mansfield, former Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and Bob Woodruff, war correspondent for ABC TV and founder of reMIND, a non profit created to assist veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Admiral Mullen also has been named the 2009 recipient of the Soldier On award in recognition of his commitment to the cause of ending veteran homelessness.

For more information on Jackie K’s House, the limited equity housing project, and Soldier On, visit www.wesoldieron.org. 

SOURCE Soldier On

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Soldier On Featured in AARP Video

Four years ago, Michael Shindler’s home was a sleeping bag under a pine tree in a park in Pittsfield, Mass. Today, the 54-year-old Air Force veteran, recovering alcoholic and mentor to at-risk kids lives just up the street, but worlds away in his own gleaming apartment. He also owns a share of the complex and has a voice in how the place is run.

His permanent digs are part of a newly constructed, think-outside-the-box center for homeless vets — the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community. Opened in January, this groundbreaking approach to housing is helping end homelessness for American veterans.

To watch AARP’s video “Homeless Veterans No More” and read the entire article click here.

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Soldier On Receives Door Knocker Award

In partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, Soldier On became one of 14 recipients of the HOME Door Knocker Award for outstanding work in producing affordable housing for the underserved. The Gordon H. Mansfield Community Village in Pittsfield, MA represents a model for developing innovative housing solutions to meet previously homeless veterans’ specific needs. The Gordon H. Mansfield Community Village is a limited equity cooperative designed to serve formerly homeless veterans who have completed transitional programs and are ready to move into permanent supportive housing.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Click here to visit the Berkshire Eagle website.

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Newton Mayor Setti Warren Visits Soldier On

PITTSFIELD — Newton Mayor Setti Warren extended his U.S. Senate campaign trail through the Berkshires on Thursday.

Warren, 40, announced earlier this week that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in the 2012 election.

On Thursday, he spent part of the morning at Cranwell Resort in Lenox, participating in the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual spring conference for the Massachusetts Mayors Association. Later in the morning, he visited Solider On in Pittsfield to tour its new 39-unit residential housing project and to meet with veterans there.

Click here to read more.

Visit the Berkshire Eagle website.

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Soldier On To Build Permanent Housing for Vet at VA-Leeds

NORTHAMPTON-The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it will partner with Soldier On, a local nonprofit agency, to provide permanent housing on about 9 acres of land at the U.S. Veterans Administration Medical Center in Leeds.

The two-part program, which has been approved at the highest levels of the VA in Washington, D.C., is expected to bring in up to $9 million in federal funds and create 60-80 permanent housing for formerly homeless veterans on the VA campus here, with the long-term goal of building up to 200 housing units here. The units would be cooperative, limited-equity housing with veterans earning a financial stake over time.

Click here to view the full article.
NorthamptonMedia.com

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