Syracuse paving the way in veteran housing


January 27, 2012, 7:45 PM

Imagine fighting for your country and then returning to civilian life without a home. That’s the reality many veterans face. As YNN’s Erin Clarke tells us, Syracuse is pioneering efforts to make sure former servicemen and women have a place to live.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Felica Plunkett says it was heart wrenching to come home after serving in the Navy and have no place to live for her, her two-month-old daughter and twin sons. Unfortunately, her story isn’t unique.

“That probably is within the hundreds. We probably have that within our region,” said Syracuse VA Homelessness Program Coordinator Adam Ormsby.

Vets like Robert VanKeuren have been fighting for years to raise awareness about the issue and create solutions.

“I served in a combat unit. Had a couple hundred missions on the patrol boat. I came back. For a while I was homeless myself in the early 70s and somebody reached out and pulled me back in,” said former VISN 2 Network Homeless Program Coordinator Robert VanKeuren.

Getting veterans a place to live is just one step in a larger goal. The government wants to partner with local organizations to make sure veterans become homeowners.

That’s how Plunkett will get a home. She’s been selected to get one of two Veterans Build homes from Habitat for Humanity. The Syracuse chapter is the first in New York to build a home exclusively for vets.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to have people from everywhere care about me, care about my family and care about other veterans that are disabled,” said Plunkett.

Another first, the HUD Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program will help Plunkett pay her mortgage. Area vets will also be able to use that subsidy to rent apartments in a complex being built in Syracuse.

“This is being done specifically for veterans so that they do have safe permanent housing,” said Ormsby.

VanKeuren Square is a joint venture between the VA, the public housing authority and Housing Vision Incorporated. The two projects are a start to ending veteran homelessness. One that VA officials hope will inspire many others locally and across the country.

Habitat for Humanity hopes to have the Vet Build homes move-in ready by spring and VanKeuren Square is expected to be completed within 24 months.