New Wheels For Our Veterans
Donated van helps homeless veterans move into permanent residency
It was like rolling thunder. The roar of dozens of motorcycles is so loud you can physically feel the noise.
That’s what parade-goers saw and felt when more than 100 motorcyclists escorted a white, cargo van down an Albany, street. The parade kicked off the van’s arrival at The Vet House, but also signified a new beginning for homeless veterans.
The Vet House, operated by the Albany Housing Coalition, is a transitional residence, providing safe, temporary housing for veterans in need.
“We can provide housing for up to 28 individuals at a time, which helps reduce homelessness among veterans,” says Albany Housing Coalition Executive Director Joe Sluszka.
The Coalition owns 15 properties, including 57 apartment units. “Veterans typically stay at The Vet House for around nine months, but some need to stay up to a year and half,” explains Joe. “Afterwards, they move to permanent housing, either at our facility or somewhere else. The coalition helps subsidize their rent, if needed.”
This is where the van comes in.
Brand name stores often donate household goods, such as televisions and furniture, to the veterans moving into their new homes. Transporting these items was a challenge.
State Farm and H&V Collision Center teamed up to help. The result is a donated, refurbished van helping move homeless veterans into stable, permanent housing.
“This has been a lifesaver for us and our veterans,” says Joe. “Additionally, our maintenance team uses the van to carry tools and supplies to ensure our properties are in top shape.”
The Coalition, which has been in existence more than 20 years, provides other assistance for veterans aside from the Vet House. Legal services, employment programs, and peer support groups are offered. Case management teams also help veterans regain their independence by connecting them with healthcare resources to obtain physical, mental, and drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
“We were alerted to an older veteran who was living in the woods,” says Joe. “After approaching him, we learned his story. He had owned a roofing business and raised a family. After he and his wife divorced, he turned to alcohol. Everything spun out of control. He lost his business and home and no longer saw his kids. We were able to bring him to The Vet House and secured him a job installing the roof on the state capitol building. During that time, he got healthier and reconnected with his adult son. He and his son bought a house together and now own a successful roofing business.”
The Coalition supports approximately 500 veterans a year and some of their programs have been used as national models. They also won the coveted VA Secretary’s Award in 2013 for outstanding service to homeless veterans.
“I love the impact we’re having on the community, specifically for our veterans in need,” adds Joe.