A Syracuse eyesore is getting new life. The vacant building at 2223 East Genesee Street will be transformed into housing for homeless veterans. Officials held a ground breaking Thursday. Our Katie Gibas tells us it's part of a nationwide effort to end veteran homelessness in five years.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Robert Van Keuren knows what it's like to come back from war and feel as if there's nowhere to go.
"I came back from Vietnam and like thousands of other veterans that came back, I spend some time homeless in the early 70s. What helped me, was another veteran reached out to me and brought me to an organization and gave me something to do," said Robert Van Keuren, the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program Coordinator.
That's exactly what Van Keuren and other veterans' advocates are doing in Syracuse. Thursday was the groundbreaking for VanKeuren Square. The $11.4 million project on East Genesee Street will have 50 apartments, a community room, computer lab and exercise facilities for homeless veterans.
"This is one small way that we can continue to recognize that they gave to our community and make sure that we are there for them," said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.
Pete Dougherty, the Associate Executive Director of the VA Homeless Initiatives Office, added, "This is a place where life will begin again for many of the veterans in this part of the country."
The project will also have supportive services, including case management, alcohol, substance abuse and mental health treatment and job training.
"It will have a life changing experience. It's going to give them an opportunity to not only be housed, but also to fulfill their lives, to go to school, to have a job to reconnect with their family, to be a part of something instead of being apart from everything," said Van Keuren.
Van Keuren says the center speaks to the armed services' core value.
"You don't leave anybody behind. You go back and get them, regardless of the cost. You don't leave anybody behind, you reach out and you get them. Homeless veterans in this country for a long time have been left behind. Projects like this, the communities that come together like this, they hold true to the one thing that we always wanted to remember - you don't leave anybody behind."
VanKeuren Square was funded under Governor Andrew Cuomo's 2011 Regional Economic Development Council Initiative.
The project is aiming for LEED Platinum certification.