Advancing National Service

The New York Town Putting Roofs Over 60 Vets Heads

October 31, 2014
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The New York Town Putting Roofs Over 60 Vets Heads
In Long Island veterans comprise 11% of the population, yet are 26% of the homeless population. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A new housing complex brings Long Island closer to eliminating veteran homelessness.

Long Island took a big step forward toward its goal of eliminating veteran homelessness when Liberty Village, a brand new housing complex in Amityville, N.Y., welcomed its first residents on Sept. 29.

According to the Long Island Report, 152,000 veterans live on Long Island and 5,500 of them are homeless, says John Jarvis of the nonprofit Mental Health Association. With all the apartments occupied, Liberty Village reduces the number of homeless vets by 60.

The Medford, N.Y.-based nonprofit Concern for Independent Living raised $25 million in five months to bring Liberty Village to fruition. The complex features green lawns and white picket fences, and each unit contains four apartments that come complete with granite countertops, furniture and kitchen supplies.

The housing complex has been a lifesaver for several of the vets who moved in about a month ago.

Robert Veney, a 54-year-old Marine Corps veteran suffering PTSD, fell into homelessness when his mother died and he could no longer afford to pay the $2,200 monthly mortgage on her house. He slept in his car or on a friend’s couch and hid his homelessness from his children. But now he can welcome them at his new apartment.

Nat Conigiliaro, an 83-year-old Korean War veteran, was moved to tears when he spoke to the Long Island Report at the grand opening. “I want to dig a deep hole and I want to throw in all the horrors of homelessness, all the depression, all the hurt, and I want to bury it, never to be resurrected again,” he says. “[The apartment] It’s the Garden of Eden, and best of all, it’s home. Can’t thank them enough.”

Ralph Fasano, the executive director of Concern for Independent Living, says, “The opening of Amityville has to be one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. To see people who were going to die homeless, and at the end of their life, to have some joy and some peace.”

In cities across the country, nonprofits and government agencies are making bold moves to alleviate veteran homelessness — bringing the prospect for eradicating it closer than ever.

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