Who We Help > Case Studies > Westhab
At a time of war, it is natural for a nation to focus attention on the sacrifices and needs of its military service men and women. Yet what is probably least known is the number of military veterans that find themselves homeless once their service time is complete.
It is estimated that one out of every three homeless men in the U.S. is a veteran, with almost 65 percent having served in Vietnam or post-Vietnam conflicts. Seventy-six percent struggle with mental health problems or addictions from drug or alcohol.
One project underway in Yonkers, New York is poised to respond to both the need for quality housing and supportive services for homeless veterans. Westhab, Inc. is the largest non-profit provider of housing and supportive services for low-income households and the homeless in Westchester County. The agency is nearing completion of 12 single-room units of housing for homeless veterans transitioning from the VA Hudson Valley Healthcare System in Montrose. Once completed, the building near downtown Yonkers will provide 4 individual bedrooms, two full bathrooms, kitchen, dining room and living room on each of its 3 floors, with laundry facilities on the first and top floor, and wheelchair access on the first.
Leviticus Fund provided $201,148 in construction and permanent financing for this project, with Westhab successfully securing the balance of the financing through grants from the VA Healthcare System’s Grant and Per Diem Program, the Federal Home Loan Bank and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
While the Yonkers building is not the first of Westhab’s projects serving veterans, it is the first time the nonprofit will collaborate with the VA Healthcare network in providing primary case management for former servicemen. The project builds on Westhab’s expertise in housing development and as a social service provider, both of which feed well into the building’s design and eventual usage. As transitional housing, which bridges a person’s transition from homelessness to permanent housing, veterans can remain living at the Yonkers facility up to 24 months.
Ken Wray, Vice President of Housing and Services for Westhab, explained that the Yonkers building’s design balances the veterans’ need for ample community space while also including extra cabinets, refrigerators and sinks in the high-traffic kitchen areas. Mr. Wray added that the first floor’s wheelchair accessibility is also an important feature given the growing number of veterans with physical disabilities.
“The vets like the idea of living around other people with military service experience who are also in recovery. It’s a good supportive environment for them with easy access to public transportation,” said Mr. Wray. “Working with the VA has also been great. They have a specific population that they can serve in a specific way and we can partner to provide additional services. There is immense satisfaction for Westhab to be able to do this project.”
The importance of “veterans helping veterans” is an essential piece in moving them toward independent living, according to VA officials.
“The significance of this project is that it provides the veterans a longer runway to making that transition to living on their own,” explained Elizabeth Gilmore, Manager of Behavioral Health Rehab, which oversees programs for homeless veterans at the Montrose center. “The nature of the building is that the vets will be living together. For the vets, this is a powerful bond and one we make use of in their treatment. It encourages them to provide a support network and is powerful in preventing them from relapsing.”
“There is the pride of serving their country and going through military training that provides that bond,” she added. “Folks in the military are trained to look out for each other’s back. They don’t lose that.”
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