Housing coming for homeless veterans
By Scott Appleton - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Tue., Feb. 1, 2011
JEWETT CITY - Around 200 veterans in eastern Connecticut are now homeless. Some people think if a veteran is homeless, there must be an unsavory reason. But several years ago, a group of veterans in Jewett City recognized a new kind of homeless veteran: young men and women. They join the service to pay for college, but when they return home, they find their jobs have been filled by someone else. Some of them do not have family to put them up and help them readjust to civilian life, so they end up on the street.
William Czmyr is a veteran who decided to do something about this. It all started seven years ago, when he initiated the “Home at Last” campaign to seek funds for building homes for homeless veterans.
The LaFlamme-Kusek American Legion Post #15 is now in the process of converting its existing building in Jewett City into 18 permanent supportive housing units to create a regional facility for homeless veterans in eastern Connecticut. It is a huge, old brick building down the hill from the library. Next to the Post is another very old building, its walls and roof disintegrating.
The funding has come together, and in the next 12 months, the old brick building will be renovated and transformed into a beautiful home for the homeless veterans, Czmyr said.
The building was built in 1870 and the parking lot behind it is going to be destroyed to allow for the expansion of the building. The disintegrating structure next door will be demolished, as well as another building beside it, to make way for a new parking lot. The idea is to create a home of which the veteran residents can be proud. Services will be available to them, such as transportation to counseling and work. The building sits below the bridge going into Lisbon. As such, it will be the first building many people will see upon entering Jewett City, and the last they see upon leaving.
Currently, most veterans without homes end up in transitional housing. In those situations, they typically are allowed around two years residency, and such residency can be terminated if it is deemed that the veteran is not following specified patterns of behavioral change.
The American Legion home is the first of its kind, offering permanent, unconditional housing to men and women who have fought for their country. Each apartment will be approximately 600 square feet, including a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living space. Everything will be handicapped-accessible, with an elevator and connector to feed both buildings. The home will also have a geothermal heating system.
Czmyr has been this project’s cornerstone. He speaks of it with passion and conviction. “These veterans do not deserve to be on the streets. It is a shameful blight on our great nation when the people who served to protect us now walk about without hope or help,” he said. Czmyr is hopeful that this building will serve as the beginning of a trend. He wants to see homes like it built across the country, manned by veterans who want to help these homeless ex-service members. He is excited by the prospect of veterans working in the homes, because he knows that veterans can relate, and they are the only people who truly can, to what these new veterans are going through.
Today, however, there are many obstacles to overcome before this dream can be realized. While the town of Griswold has fully endorsed and backed the building of this home, the town of Rocky Hill has blocked another one.
To learn more about this project, visit the website www.al-veteranshousing.org.