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Program for homeless veterans provides shelter, job training

From left, Rembert Lane, executive director of the Peter Young Veterans Housing program on Gifford Street in Syracuse, Alice Bigelow of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Unit 188 and Veterans Administration Medical Center social worker Mary Driscoll pose with the baskets collected by other American Legion auxiliaries for the veterans' home.

From left, Rembert Lane, executive director of the Peter Young Veterans Housing program on Gifford Street in Syracuse, Alice Bigelow of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Unit 188 and Veterans Administration Medical Center social worker Mary Driscoll pose with the baskets collected by other American Legion auxiliaries for the veterans' home. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— On the campaign trail, there’s been a lot of talk about helping veterans get jobs.

But in a two-story brownstone on Gifford Street in Syracuse, a small team of dedicated professionals is actually making it happen.

The Veterans Residential Program is run by Peter Young Housing, Industries and Treatment funded by the Veterans Administration. The program is based on Father Peter Young’s “three-legged stool” program: provide veterans with treatment for their issues, whether they are related to substance abuse, mental health or something else; give them a place to live; and help them get vocational training and find a job. Once they have all of those, they will land on their feet. The program, which has been in existence for over 50 years, has homes from Buffalo to New York City.

“A lot of our veterans are homeless these days and don’t know which way to go, don’t know how to reintegrate into society,” said Rembert Lane, executive director of the Syracuse facility. “That’s what we do. We try to help them make that transition successfully, tell them there’s a better way they can do it. They don’t have to isolate and do other things — you don’t have to drink, you don’t have to drug, you just have to stay connected.”

In order to be eligible for the program, veterans must be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They have to have received an honorable or a general discharge from the army and be enrolled in the VA. Anyone with substance abuse issues must have been sober for 30 days before entering the program.

Eligible vets are referred to Lane by VA social worker Mary Driscoll.

“This is an opportunity for folks who have been homeless and who are still not quite on their feet yet to spend up to two years with us in housing,” Driscoll said. “And during that time, we’ll do whatever it takes to get them on their feet. Whatever they bring with them as far as issues is what we work on. It’s very individualized. Folks who have substance abuse issues automatically go into substance abuse counseling. Those who don’t, don’t. But whatever it is that caused them to become homeless in the first place is the kind of thing that we look to resolve.”

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