Shelter for female veterans wins funding
| Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2011 4:04pm |
BALLSTON -- A construction project to improve Guardian House, a residence for homeless female veterans, bested 24 other projects in an online contest to win $20,000 from retailer Sears.
The money will fund a renovation of the community room at the Route 50 facility, which welcomed its first resident a week ago and will house up to 11 women. "I’m excited for the program," said housing coordinator Patricia Whitaker-Torres, who has been interviewing interested veterans. "We’re getting there."
Construction will begin Oct. 15 on the room, which will receive a new ceiling, new flooring and windows, among other improvements. It should be complete in about a week. Those who have been involved in getting Guardian House off the ground say the community will be pivotal to the women’s emotional recovery. Most are victims of sexual assault, and many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their time in the military.
"It’s what we would call in the military a day room," Whitaker-Torres said. "It’s a room where we can do our daily meetings with the women." The Sears contest awarded a combined $250,000 to 25 affiliates of the charity Rebuilding Together for projects that benefit veterans. While all received at least $6,000, the Guardian House project offered earned the most votes in a poll on Sears’ Facebook page and won the largest sum.
"We beat out big cities such as Pittsburgh and Washington. It’s quite an accomplishment," said Budd Mazurek, executive director at the Saratoga County Rural Preservation Company, which runs the home. The organization also manages a similar home for male veterans on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa, which is steadily filled to occupancy.
"It’s a great issue for everybody to rally around," said Michelle Larkin, executive director of Rebuilding Together in Saratoga County. Larkin said a number of people, including students at Skidmore College and employees at Bonacio Construction, have volunteered to help with the work at Guardian House. State troopers have volunteered to install a wheelchair ramp, and Whitaker-Torres said Home Depot has offered help.
Flat-screen televisions and computers have also been donated to Guardian House, she said.
The building at 1214 Route 50 was purchased earlier this year with private donations and a grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. According to Rebuilding Together, there are about 68,000 female veterans in New York. One in every 16 of those is homeless, or about 4,250 women.
Applicants to Guardian House must be sober and honorably discharged from the armed services. Referrals have come from various veterans’ groups and social service agencies, Whitaker-Torres said, but candidates may also apply on their own.
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