In 1988, Pennsylvania American Legion Housing for Homeless Veterans Corporation purchased four town houses on Cypress Street, Moon Township in Allegheny County. The concept is simple — provide a safe,clean, stable environment for the participant while he/she completes schooling, job training and becomes adequately self sufficient to seek permanent housing in the surrounding community.
The Cypress Street Project quickly received national attention and has served as a basis for many similar projects in the Pittsburgh area and throughout the country.
Since its humble beginnings with the Cypress Street Project, the Pennsylvania American Legion’s Housing for Homeless Veterans Program has continued to grow and expand throughout the state.
In 1995, the Corporation expanded its operation to the Philadelphia area. Then there was the addition of the home in Ephrata, Lancaster County. Purchased in 1998, the home provides stable transitional housing for five veterans in central Pennsylvania. In 2012, we added a new home in the Harrisburg area. And in 2013 the Harrisburg home became apart of our organization.
Each participant is responsible to take part in cleaning of the house, cooking and maintaining the jointly used facilities. Each is also responsible for keeping his/her assigned area clean and doing their own laundry.
Our program is designed to enhance the quality of life for the veteran. The goal is to become productive tax paying citizens by securing a good decent job. Over the years, we have had over 400 veterans go through our program with an 85% success rate. The remodeling and upkeep of these homes is the responsibility of the Corporation.
This program has proved to be very successful through its many years of existence. But, it isn’t solving the problem. People are still becoming homeless.
The American Legion has always looked to give our veterans, who are homeless, the dignity and respect they deserve. It’s often very hard for veterans to admit they need help especially when it comes to being homeless or in danger of losing their home. There is no shame in needing help. We’ve all needed help at one time or another.
Female veterans are at particularly at risk. We are finding a rise of female veterans and their families that we have living in our homes currently. Many of these women are single parents of young children who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The HFHV program is now moving into a new grant opportunity to assist veterans who may be behind on their mortgage or rent, behind on their utilities and in fear of shut off, and could be on the verge of becoming homeless. They will increase their outreach campaign to assisting veterans and their families who are at risk of becoming homeless. It will aim to assist veterans before they become homeless in Pennsylvania. Their mission is to provide veterans with the assistance needed so they can stay in their homes.
Ron Conley, the President of Housing for Homeless Veterans said, “It’s for those who are in some type of financial situation that could cause them to be homeless tomorrow. We are going to offer them an opportunity to apply for a grant from the Homeless Corporation. We are going to be proactive, not just reactive.”
The American Legion has the Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) program which is a grant program that awards cash grants to minor children of veterans who are eligible for American Legion membership. These grants help families in need to meet the cost of shelter, food, utilities and health expenses, thereby keeping the child or children in a more stable environment. The difference between the TFA and what the HFHV are doing is one thing, children. The TFA is based on them having kids and so therefore The American Legion is giving them the money so they have a roof over their kids’ heads, food in their kids’ bellies, and utilities so they can keep warm. It’s all based on the need and care of kids. This program opens up to veterans without kids who may be at risk.
The veteran will need to provide a copy of their honorable discharge, DD 214. They will also need to show they are at risk meaning they have to show a financial need.
If you know a veteran who is on the verge of homelessness or is struggling with issues related to housing then have them apply. Return completed grant application with documentation to your local PA American Legion Service Office. To find the Service Office closest to you, click here.
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