The problem of homelessness among veterans has always existed, and threatens to only grow worse as the U.S. experiences the biggest draw down of troops since World War II. In Central New York those men and women once had no where to turn, but a new Syracuse facility has changed that. Candace Hopkins brings people a first look at VanKeuren Square.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The land of the free is only kept that way by the brave, but here in Syracuse when those brave veterans return home from serving their country, in the past some ended up with no where to go.
"You don't leave your wounded outside the wire, you go out and get them regardless of the cost, and it's always been my perspective that the men and women who wore the uniform who are homeless in this country, they're the wounded, and it's incumbent upon us as a nation and our cities and our communities to find ways to go out and bring those veterans in," said Homeless Veterans Advocate Robert VanKeuren.
Syracuse is now on track toward getting veterans off the streets and into the homes they deserve. Friday VanKeuren Square was officially unveiled. The new $11.5 million facility was built through a partnership between the V.A., the Public Housing Authority and Housing Visions Incorporated.
It features 50 apartments, common and exercise areas, a computer lab and office space. Which will allow for on-site V.A. services, ensuring residents have everything they need under one roof.
"This allows a veteran to have a bridge to walk across, not only for the services that he or she may need while they're here, but also to facilitate them getting the services at the VA, filing for benefits, help with employment, so the intent is to provide a wrap around community so you don't feel isolated," said VanKeuren.
The facility started accepting residents in February, all of which were homeless or at risk of ending up on the streets. Sonny Carelli was one of the first to move in.
"It's incredible, it's a gift, you know I wake up daily and just thank god, I do every morning, I thank god for this residence, and it's what I make it," said Carelli.
And many of these residents say one of the best parts about this building is the sense of security its giving back to them, something many of them have lived without for so long.
"Through everything I had been through I just had no privacy, the best thing is that it's a sanctuary for me, it's a place of refuge, it's awesome," said Carelli.
And with each new resident, Central New York has a chance to repay those who gave this country so much, while asking so little in return.
Some of the apartments are Section Eight eligible, others base their rent on the income of the resident. Currently, 46 of the 50 units are occupied.
Click here to learn more about veterans homelessness and the services available: www.va.gov/homeless