Veterans Haven - Serving Since 1995
By Staff Sgt. Barb Harbison, NJDMAVA/PA
Since January 1995, more than 460 homeless veterans have come through the doors of Veterans Haven in Winslow, in the search of a new start in their lives.
Veterans Haven is a two year Transitional Housing Program for homeless veterans. Up to 54 veterans are housed in the coed residence. Each veteran has his or her own room with sink, bed, armoire, dresser, night table, television and VCR. Two bathrooms with toilets, showers and bathtubs as well as laundry facilities are located on each floor.
Veterans are given up to two years to get their lives back on track with lots of help from the staff. During their stay, residents must attend group sessions and other meetings that address subjects such as life skills, job resumes, job searching, alcohol and drug abuse and anger management. The men and women must be drug free when they arrive at the program and they are subject to random testing. Vets who break this rule are asked to leave the program.
Veterans are given the first five months after the initial in processing to take care of any medical and legal problems, as well as begin their job or school searches; most are working by the end of their third month, according to Robert Durante, Superintendent, Veterans Haven. By the end of the seventh month, the veteran must be employed, said Durante. He added that the job should be full-time and meaningful to enable the veteran to pay for all their day-to-day expenses once they are back on their own.
Durante noted that the average stay of the residents at Veterans Haven is nine months. Our success rate is 69 percent; success (meaning) being fully employed, living on their own and free of substance abuse. The average age of the veterans participating in the program is 44 and the average education level is 14 years of school.
To be eligible to enter Veterans Haven, applicants must be considered veterans by the standards set forth by the Veterans Administration and must be eligible for veterans benefits and specifically medical care. Residents use the VA medical center in Philadelphia for all medical care.
It takes a lot of support to keep Veterans Haven a real haven for these veterans in need. Durante thanked the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary; Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary; Rolling Thunder Chapters 2 and 5; The New Jersey State Elks Association Southeast District; Sons of the American Legion; and many other organizations and individuals who contributed time, money and materials during the past nine years and without whose support the program could not have flourished.
Other recent contributions to Veterans Haven include $169,000 from a veterans fraternity in north Jersey, which will be used to renovate the four bathrooms on the second and third floors.
The facility was also the recipient of a $354,000 HUD grant under the 2002 McKinney-Vento Act, the third such award. This money will be used to defray operating costs. Veterans Haven also receives VA money based on a per diem of $24.99 per veteran.
Durante said that the program has two grant proposals pending with the Veterans Administration, one for the purchase of a new van and a second to replace the buildings transformer and rewire the electrical system.
Of course Durante, as do most owners or managers of older buildings, has a wish list for his building he would like to replace the all the windows and install air conditioning in all resident rooms.
For more information about the program, to volunteer, or to make a donation please call (609) 561-0269, extension 103, or write to: Veterans Haven, PO Box 80, Winslow, NJ 08095-0080, Attn: Robert Durante