Ralph Fasano is the Executive Director, Concern for Independent Living
In 2011 President Obama, Department of Defense Secretary Eric Shinseki and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced a five year plan to end veteran homelessness in the United States. Halfway into this plan the results have been significant. Veteran homelessness has been reduced by 17.2%
The creation of permanent affordable housing with flexible services is an important component of our plan to end veteran homelessness. Concern is currently in the process of developing 60 units in Amityville and 59 units in Ronkonkoma. All of the units in Amityville will serve homeless veterans and their families. About half of the units in Ronkonkoma are for homeless veterans with the balance aimed at housing veterans who need affordable housing
Another exciting development is the creation of a Community Resource Center alongside the Amityville housing. The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless is renovating a 40,000 sq. ft. building that will house approximately 7 nonprofit agencies. United Veterans Beacon House, SUS, Family Service League, Suffolk County United Veterans, Concern and others will be joined together under one roof and will focus on coordinating our regional efforts to end veteran homelessness.
While there must be overall plans to achieve goals it always comes down to individuals and our ability to connect with them. For over a year now we have been working with a 71 year old veteran who spent many years living in the woods. After months of engaging him, he finally decided that he liked what we could offer him – an apartment in a safe, comfortable place where he could maintain his dignity and begin to rebuild his life. One year later his health has improved and he is working part-time. He was able to pay off debts and save money to purchase a vehicle. He spends part of his free time engaging homeless veterans who can benefit from some guidance from one who has been there.
Another veteran celebrated his 42nd birthday this month with his 16 year old daughter in his two-bedroom condo that he rents through HUD VASH. His daughter attends high school and she is doing well in school for the first time in years. He’s saving for a washer and dryer; a car for his daughter is next. He planned and enjoyed cooking holiday meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas time, and served his Concern case manager his “special” brewed tea on Christmas Eve. Despite suffering from severe anxiety, he is happy, feels secure and safe in his home and is starting to venture out to public places after being a virtual hermit for several years. He has recently begun receiving financial compensation from the VA for his service-related disabilities, and combined with his social security disability benefits earned during all the years he worked as a truck driver, he has a monthly income sufficient for his needs.
Ending Veteran homelessness on Long Island will take a concerted effort using all of the resources available in the best manner possible. We are determined to work with our partners to help make this happen. We look forward to continue collaborating with CSH to end veteran homelessness and continue to increase the supply of supportive housing.