Fall 2006 Edition NJDMAVA Veterans

Veterans Haven 2: Expanding Care for New Jersey's Homeless Veterans
By Fred Kemper, Special Assistant to Deputy Commissioner

Veterans Haven
Patterson Army Health Clinic as it appears today. Photo by Kryn Westhoven, NJDMAVA/PA.
The problem of homelessness amongst veterans is prevalent throughout the United States. There are approximately 200,000 homeless veterans nationally, 8,000 of which live in New Jersey.

Many returning from service have difficulty readjusting to civilian life and face problems with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other ailments. This occasionally leads to veterans living on our streets after their honorable service to our country.

To combat homelessness, Veterans Haven was developed as a transitional housing unit for homeless veterans. In order to break the cycle of addiction many residents face, it is a 100 percent drug and alcohol free facility. Following treatment and screening at a USVA hospital, Veterans Haven residents enter a three-phase program consisting of assessment and treatment, vocational training and education coupled with societal re-integration. Within two to six months of entrance into the home, residents must be employed, and they can remain in the program for up to two years.

With a high success rate of 73 percent, residents often leave the program with stable employment and maintenance of permanent housing. The Department of Community Affairs is providing State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP) vouchers to twelve graduates of Veterans Haven and is offering housing professional guidance and counseling services.

Currently, the State can serve 54 veterans, however the overwhelming number of homeless veterans residing in New Jersey pushes us towards expansion in the program and outreach. As stated in his letter, Governor Corzine has emphasized battling the problem of homelessness amongst the veteran population as key in his next years in office. The $2 million dollar appropriation towards expanding the bed capacity and improving the facility is paramount to success in addressing the problem. DMAVA is currently involved in applying for federal money to supplement the appropriation by the state, intending to leverage another $2.6 million dollars for the project. This expansion however, will only yield an estimated 36 additional rooms, giving the State the ability to serve a total of 90 veterans.

Even with expansion, the sheer amount of homeless veterans calls for the creation of another facility. We are investigating the possibility of opening Veterans Haven 2 at the Patterson Army Health Clinic in Fort Monmouth. Fort Monmouth is set to close in concert with the Department of Defense's "Base Realignment and Closure" act. As part of the realignment procedure, the federal government allocates money towards shifting the operations of the base. A portion of the new operations at the base needs to be dedicated towards dealing with the problem of homelessness. Therefore, DMAVA and Governor Corzine feel that this location would be perfect for the much needed Veterans Haven 2.

Director of Veterans Services, Gary Englert, stated that the clinic in Fort Monmouth could possibly provide living space for an additional 200 veterans. Patient rooms and offices in the facility would be converted into residential rooms, utilizing already available infrastructure to make the transition easier. Englert stated that by working with the VA, DMAVA intends to keep the Veterans Outpatient Clinic operational even as the active service care wing would close.

In order to secure the Patterson Army Health Clinic as the site for Veterans Haven 2, it needs to be approved by the "Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority" (FMERPA). At a July 26 meeting, Deputy Commissioner Steve Abel made a presentation to the authority outlining the current program and future plans, stressing that Veterans Haven is a program that produces results, and most importantly, it serves those have served our state and country. The presentation was received with overwhelming approval and praise, although significant time remains before a final decision is made.

Many veterans attended the event, some voicing their concern over the need for further homeless veterans care and noted that if the outpatient clinic were closed, veterans would have difficulty using other facilities due to greatly increased travel time.