A rapid rehousing program, a snow festival and a reconnection workshop were among the veterans’ resources highlighted at the Disabled Veterans’ Summit held Jan. 29 in Albany.
Hosted by NYSID Preferred Source Solutions, a non-profit organization that helps New Yorkers with disabilities gain employment, the summit brought together state government officials and agencies, not-for-profits, veterans’ service organizations, wounded warriors, institutions of higher learning and rehabilitation organizations.
Several agencies shared information about the local programs and services they offer.
STRIDE Adaptive Sports’ Wounded Warrior program gives veterans the chance to get out and play and to also give back.
March 6 through 9, STRIDE will hold a Wounded Warrior Snowfest that will honor 15 wounded service members and their families. Participants, who are still being sought, will enjoy two days of fun in the Capital Region and two days of skiing at Jiminy Peak, all free of charge.
After participating in the event, veterans will be offered the opportunity to volunteer at STRIDE in the sport of their choice. Activities offered through STRIDE include sailing, shooting, hand cycling, archery and many others.
“They can be a role model or work one-on-one with a youth with a disability,” said Mary Ellen Whitney, president, CEO and founder of STRIDE, which is based in Rensselaer.
Cpl. Jeremy Walton, a disabled Marine veteran, began volunteering with STRIDE last year. He said his work at STRIDE’s camp for kids gave him a new purpose in life.
“Seeing these kids develop and be happy, it’s amazing. [I’d] come back the next day or the next weekend to find out that the kids were looking for me to come back,” he said. “When I found kids were looking for me, that’s what made me feel like I had a place.”
The American Red Cross of Northeastern New York holds free reconnection workshops for veterans at sites around the region.
“We train our service members to go work for us, to go protect our freedom and then they come back and do we retrain them?” asked Jeff Fox, a local mental health professional who volunteers as a reconnection workshop facilitator. “Do we bring them back? Talk about the new normal, a cute little phrase, but do we really help folks reconnect?”
The confidential workshops help attendees with anger management, parenting, dealing with depression, stress management and more. Each workshop includes between 3 and 10 participants. Led by trained facilitators, the programs are 11⁄2 to 2 hours long.
The Albany Housing Coalition recently received a grant for a 90-day Rapid Rehousing Boot Camp for homeless veterans.
“What that means is that we’re no longer accepting the fact that we have to cure somebody completely before they’re rehoused,” explained Glenn Read, director of veterans’ services for the Albany Housing Coalition. “We’re going to meet the vet where they’re at. In the military, in boot camp, there’s eight intensive weeks of taking you from a civilian to a warrior. Are we trying to make them perfect citizens in those eight weeks? Perfect captains? Are we trying to make them perfect Americans? No, we’re trying to take them, in that eight-week period, from civilians to warriors. It’s very, very limited, what we do in that time.”
A similar concept is applied to finding veterans housing, he said. “We look at it and say, ‘What do you need to go from the street to an apartment?’ Then we take the resources that we have collected and we leverage those resources to make it happen,” Read said.
The Albany Housing Coalition also offers other programs for veterans, including pro-bono legal services, a senior veterans’ outreach program and a workforce reintegration program.