Veteran’s Haven Breaks Ground on 14-Bed Building

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Susan Krawchyk admits that when she started working for the Mahoning County Veterans Services Commission she envied the housing opportunities for veterans that the agency’s counterparts in Trumbull and Summit counties offered. 

The Army veteran, who served in Iraq, didn’t understand why something similar wasn’t available in Mahoning County.

“It shouldn’t be a need for veterans but, unfortunately, sometimes they make bad choices and they end up being homeless,” said Krawchyk, who now is executive director of Mahoning’s veterans services commission.

That situation should be different following Monday morning’s groundbreaking on the southeast corner of the West Warren Avenue and Hillman Street intersection, where Veteran’s Haven is constructing a 14-bed transitional housing facility for homeless veterans. Veterans Haven is a transitional housing program funded through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This is a long-overdue project, and I’m so very excited to have it built here in our hometown,” Krawchyk said.  

Michael Thompson, Veteran’s Haven program manager, speaks during Monday’s event.

Brandi Parker, assistant director of veterans services for Family & Community Services, also acknowledged that Monday’s groundbreaking followed “a long time” and “a lot of hard work.”

The building should be operational by October 2024, reported Michael Thompson, a retired Army sergeant and Veteran’s Haven program manager.

“It’s a unique concept,” he said. The building will be half traditional construction and half using shipping containers. Veterans typically stay in the transitional housing for six to nine months before moving into other arrangements.

The $1.2 million project started as an initiative to provide transitional housing for women veterans but was expanded to include men, Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said. The county provided $150,000 in American Rescue Plan funds for the housing.

“It’s so close to all of the things that our veterans could use,” she said.  

“The biggest thing we need in the city is to rebuild, but we can’t just rebuild when it comes to houses and businesses. What Veteran’s Haven is doing is helping us rebuild people,” 1st Ward Councilman Julius Oliver said. Oliver allocated $100,000 in ARP funds for the project.

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown speaks during Monday’s event. Standing behind him is Cole Reedy from American Legion Post 301 in Austintown.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown reflected on a recent conference on homelessness he attended in California, a portion of which involved what was described as “a journey” of the Skid Row district.

“It was just mind blowing, and every time I looked there, I could see some person or individual that I could identify with,” he said. “It just gave me the energy to say that we can do better for the people who need us.”

Case managers also will assist residents with the resources to help them secure permanent housing. Additional programming to be developed on the other three corners of the intersection will include container housing for single-family houses for veterans.

“We started researching this probably around 2017,” said Ed Macabobby Jr., president of Steel Valley Container Structures LLC in North Lima. “It’s just taken a while to get to the point where everybody’s on board with this because it’s basically a new process.”

Since Veteran’s Haven began providing services in Trumbull County in partnership with Trumbull Metropolitan Housing Authority roughly a decade ago, probably 300 veterans in the region have been served, said Herm Breuer, Trumbull County Veterans Services Commission executive director.

“Prior to that, we really didn’t have any services for the homeless veterans of the Valley,” he said. “They’ve really been a godsend as far as veterans services because we get those veterans that need housing right away.”

Also during the program, Sunrise Pizza in Warren donated $5,000 for Veteran’s Haven, and $1,500 raised during a 5K held Sunday at Camp James A. Garfield in Ravenna was donated as well.

Pictured at top: Councilman Julius Oliver, 1st Ward, speaks during Monday’s event. Standing behind him are Cole Reedy and Barry Garhammer from American Legion Post 301 in Austintown.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.