2017 CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS AT THE ESSEX HOME
HABITAT PLUS VETERANS’ SUPPORTIVE HOUSING PROGRAMS
Happy holidays from everyone here at Habitat PLUS! Thank you so much for your generosity and support to our Veterans.
We are happy to report that in the past year, thanks to the generosity of a number of charitable foundations, organizations and community banks, HP was able to make much needed repairs to the Group Home site. This was a massive six months undertaking, due to the detailed historically significant architecture and the extensive work required by skilled craftsmen and laborers. HP replaced the roof, soffits, gutters, downspouts, restored the widow’s walk/cupola and all the shutters and painted the building. No more leaky roofs! The 1847 Jacob Cohen mansard Victorian looks fantastic! It has been returned the stately building it once was and always meant to be. Our Veterans are so proud of their beautiful home!
Nearly 30 years ago we set out to address the shameful fact that many of our disabled troops were returning “home” to find that they had no home. No place for those who served and paid a high price for all of us. And they are still paying. We set out to try and change our little corner of the world, by establishing a home where veterans with common challenges could support one another. Years later the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans did a study and documented facts that we instinctively knew and have been putting into practice since 1989. Some of those facts/findings:
“The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves.”
“Government money, while important, is limited, and available services are often at capacity. It is critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities that most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care.”
While HP was at the forefront of this groundbreaking model, programs such as these are expensive to provide. Our veterans are also aging, and like all of us as we age, they need even more assistance. The cost of serving them rises with every year, yet the state funding we receive represents only 39% of our budget…HP must raise the remaining 61% on our own. We must do this while effectively running a hotel, restaurant and social service center for 14 Seriously Mentally Ill Veterans 365 days a year. We do this with only 3 full time staff and 3-part time staff.
According to the Association for Behavioral Care website, “For 20 years (1987-2007) there had not been a statewide adjustment to the rates of reimbursement paid by the commonwealth to human service providers for their services. Providers were not being reimbursed for their actual costs to administer their programs, including such items as employee salaries, rent, heat, fuel and health insurance costs.” It also states, “As of January 1, 2014 only 37.3 % of the system is being paid rates established under the law! The legal mandate and legislative intent of Chapter 257 has not been met.”
Imagine trying to support your family on the same amount of money today that you were earning 30 years ago! Now imagine your household consisted of fourteen severely disabled members (and 3 full-time and 3 part-time staff, earning wages that reflect some of the lowest paying wages in our economy)!
To make matters worse, HP is now into the fifth month of our state contract, yet the state has yet to reimburse us for July, August, September and October. It is now November and still nothing. For nearly five months we have had to cover payroll, mortgages, insurances, heat and utilities, food and all the extra care our aging Veterans require. This has happened for the past three contract years, with no plausible explanation from the Dept. of Veterans’ Services, as to why they can’t pay us the funds the legislature gave them in July!
So, won’t you please take a moment to give whatever you can to help us continue to take care of these deserving American patriots?