The goal President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki set in 2009 to end homelessness for veterans by the end of 2015 moved a little closer to reality Wednesday with the public debut of two facilities in Northeast Ohio.
The Akron Community Resource and Referral Center, at 111 E. Voris St., Akron, was opened formally, as was the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, at 7000 Euclid Ave., Suite 202, Cleveland.
The Akron facility is located in a building owned by Community Support Services, a nonprofit agency that works with people with mental illnesses. Starting next week, the Akron Community Resource and Referral Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays.
Reaching out to “our nation’s heroes is very important,” said Susan M. Fuehrer, director of the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, and the new facilities will help in “caring for those that are homeless and need some additional resources.”
At the Akron Community Resource and Referral Center, veterans will be helped in finding stable and affordable housing; short-term housing options; easy access to mental health, substance abuse and other services; as well as vocational training and employment services.
Keith Stahl, director of residential services at Community Support Services, said his agency plans to open its own outreach center in the same building.
“We want to bring any homeless individual in through one door and be able to serve their needs,” Stahl said.
Also among those who attended the opening Wednesday was Army veteran Kevin Manning, 48, who once lived in a tent near downtown Akron. An outreach team from Community Support Services found him.
Manning, who now rents his own apartment unit, said he thinks the new center will help homeless veterans, but those veterans need to want that assistance.
“It will help if people use it,” said Manning, who said that since he has been working with Community Support Services social workers he has found sobriety.
“If I wasn’t sober, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Jack G. Hetrick, network director for VA Healthcare System of Ohio, praised the new facilities in Akron and Cleveland.
“This is one example of the tools in our arsenal to tackle the homeless problem for veterans,” Hetrick said. “They deserve our fullest attention.”
Barb Karam, supervisor of the new facility on Voris Street, said the site will have extended hours “so that veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless have a greater range of times they can access our services.”
She said even though Akron is home to the Community Based Outreach Clinic on West Waterloo Road, the Voris Street facility is essential.
“We need to reach out to the community and embed ourselves deeper into the community and to engage community partners,” she said.
Toward that end, Karam said that along with working with agencies like Community Support Services, the Social Security Administration and others, the new VA Akron center also will collaborate with the new Valor Home, a homeless shelter to be opened in late April or early May located at 1121 Exeter Road, off East Waterloo Road, in Akron.
Matthew Slater, director of veterans services for Family & Community Services Inc. of Portage County, the agency that will run Valor Home, said the new VA center “brings many services that previously may have only been offered at Wade Park or Brecksville VA. I’m very excited to see where this partnership will lead. We have worked with many of the staff at the [Community Resource and Referral Center] and are very excited to work more closely with them.”
Dr. Murray Altose, the Cleveland VA’s chief of staff, said collaboration is the key to eliminating homelessness among veterans.
“If we work together, we can accomplish our goals,” he said.
For more information on the center on East Voris Street, call 330-761-7054. For information on the Cleveland facility, call 216-391-0264.
To reach the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, call 877-424-3838.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.