Project to Provide Housing for Homeless Veterans

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A project expected to break ground Nov. 13 on the South Side of Youngstown will provide transitional housing for homeless veterans.

“Veteran’s Haven is a transitional housing program that is funded through the VA where we provide temporary and permanent housing in the Mahoning Valley,” says Brandi Parker, assistant director for veterans services at Family & Community Services.

Veteran’s Haven is a program of Family & Community Services.

The project will help those who live there to get back on their feet, Parker says. That involves wraparound services.

Those services can include health care for those who don’t qualify for it under the Veterans Administration, substance abuse services, intensive outpatient counseling and financial assistance.

The agency works with other organizations, including Meridian, Coleman Professional Services, Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission, Veterans Outreach and others to deliver that help.

“When a veteran enters our program, including this new facility we’re aiming to build, we really aim to give them as much sustainability as possible before they leave us and enter into permanent housing,” says Nathan Chambers, director of veterans services. “Some of those wraparound services also include financial planning, budgeting – and we’re helping them meet their educational goals if that’s appropriate for their situation.”

The program also brings in outside service providers to offer art therapy, equine therapy and other opportunities.

“We try to tackle the situation from a holistic view,” he says. “You give them the best shot we feel they can work toward as they aim to find their own housing.”

The veterans will live in the facility for six to nine months and meet with a case manager weekly for the first three months they’re in the program.

Chambers says veterans make up a disproportionate percentage of the homeless population. About 1% of the U.S. population is homeless. One in 10 homeless people is a veteran.

The program has been working with Meridian Health Services to provide short-term housing for homeless veterans since 2021. It’s in a wing of Meridian that includes 10 beds.

Veteran’s Haven began operating in Youngstown in 2019 with permanent housing for veterans. That initiative uses private landlords and also works with the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority.

The facility, which will combine shipping containers and brick and mortar, at West Warren Avenue and Hillman Street will provide temporary housing for 14 veterans, both men and women.

The roughly $1.2 million project will be funded by the Veterans Administration, with Mahoning County commissioners kicking in $150,000 in American Rescue Plan funds and Youngstown Councilman Julius Oliver, 1st Ward, contributing $100,000 from his ARP allotment.

Family & Community Services Inc. is providing $100,000 toward the project, and additional money will be generated through fundraising.

“I’m a veteran myself, so when I heard about the project, it was a no-brainer,” Oliver said. “Veterans after a time of transition always need a place.”

Some veterans return from service and have no home or family to go to, so the transitional housing will provide a temporary place and will be available to any veteran, regardless of when they separated from the military.

“We’re a very military-minded community, and we just want to be able to facilitate those needs,” the councilman says.

Parker says the South Side location was chosen because of its proximity to the VA health care center, its access to public transportation and size of the parcel.

The transitional housing component is the first phase, with other services expected to be added in the future, including permanent supportive housing for veterans.

The facility will also help revitalize that neighborhood. The shipping container structure enhances affordability.

“Being able to show that we can provide this type of housing that’s affordable and for individuals to look at that and say, ‘Hey, maybe that would work for me.’” Parker says.

Veteran’s Haven operates transitional and permanent housing for veterans in Kent, Lorain, Akron and Canton.

“What this also does is it promotes Youngstown,” Parker says. “This is a new project, and we will possibly be able to use local contractors to do the work. We’re bringing employment into the community. The facility is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year facility, so that’s going to increase employability and also increase property values for those who are homeowners in that tight-knit community.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.