On any given night there are more than 800 homeless veterans in the Hudson Valley region, according to Manager of Homeless Programs at the Montrose Veterans Affairs Hospital Paul Stolz.
On Wednesday, dozens of VA employees and patients helped raise awareness of veteran homelessness by walking a 2K lap around the campus and donating items for homeless vets. The groups chanted and cheered for each other as they made their loop, happy to be outside raising awareness for an issue that many of them help address or have experienced themselves.
“I think this event is great because this is an issue that needs to be brought out,” said Troy Ashby, a 37-year-old Air Force veteran who struggled with homelessness for years before he turned to the VA for help. Ashby is now living in Peekskill and earning an Associates Degree in Medical Assistance from Westchester College.
“We need more awareness. There are a lot of us coming home and coming home damaged and we need help,” Ashby said.
The Hudson Valley VA Montrose campus helped Ashby transition out of homelessness through its HUD VASH program. HUD VASH is a joint program by the Housing and Urban Development department and Veterans Affairs Department to provide Section 8 housing and case management to homeless veterans, Stolz explained. About 250 Hudson Valley veterans have been helped through the program since 2007.
The United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki made ending veteran homelessness a top priority in 2009 with a five-year plan aimed to reach that goal. That plan brought additional resources, funding and staff to the Hudson Valley VA to strengthen their programs.
The Montrose VA recently received a Mobil Homeless Clinic bus that they use to help veterans know they exist and provide many helpful services.
“It is about getting veterans who need our services to be aware we are here and can help them on their journey coming out of homelessness,” said Hudson Valley VA Director Gerald Culliton, Director of the Hudson Valley VA hospitals in Montrose and Castle Point. “They are veterans and they have earned these services.”
The VA Hudson Valley Health Care System staff wants to help veterans in need. They ask that any veteran seeking eligibility information about VA Care please call 914-737-4400, ext. 2306 or 845-831-2000, ext. 5100 for more information.
In addition to homelessness services, the VA offers Veterans primary and specialty care, women’s health, long term care, mental health/residential care to include PTSD, substance abuse and treatment for homeless veterans. VA Hudson Valley services are available at the two main campuses in Montrose and Castle Point and the six Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) in Carmel, Goshen, Monticello, New City, Pine Plains, Port Jervis and Poughkeepsie.