$1.7 million in grants has been awarded to Catholic Family and Community Service, a Paterson based charity organization, by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, announced Bill Pascrell junior, representative for New Jersey’s 9th congressional district, on Thursday afternoon in the Father English Community Center located on Main Street.
“We”re talking about housing for veterans; we’re talking about services for veterans,” said Pascrell to a group of about 30 people that included key members of the Northern New Jersey Veteran Services Advisory Consortium, a newly formed massive partnership that brings together a large number of organizations that provide assistance to distressed veterans throughout the state.
The grant will go towards providing low-income and homeless veterans with shelter; there are more than 8,000 homeless veterans in the state, estimates Ray Chimileski, who heads Operation Chillout, a non-profit that finds homeless veterans and provides them with shelter.
Chimileski shared details of a number of former Vietnam servicemen who lived under bridges and inside makeshift homes due to a lack of housing for returning service members. “Three men we met” who had served more than 30 years ago were suffering from “full-blown PTSD,” said Chimileski of a group of homeless veterans his organization found living near a mountain in Dover, NJ. Adequate medical attention and shelter was completely lacking for the three men. “This grant will prevent at risk veterans from becoming homeless,” said Pascrell, who hopes the grant will help organizations like Chimileski’s to provide more assistance to veterans who are in need of shelter.
In the audience were former servicemen and women who had served overseas in America’s wars. Few of them shared their story. One man, who received help from the Catholic charity, said without the organization’s help he would have likely been homeless.
The consortium which brings together the Dioceses Paterson and Archdioceses of Newark will provide veterans throughout the state with much needed housing with main focus being placed on the six northern counties: Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Morris, Sussex, Essex, and Union. “We believe that by combining resources from both of the Catholic Charities of Paterson and Newark we will provide a comprehensive array of services to veterans and their families,” said Diane Silbernagel, director of the Paterson-based Catholic charity.
The grant which is part of Supportive Services for Veterans Families Program, a program that provides housing assistance to veterans through sending grants to non-profits, hopes to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.
“We send guys and gals into the battlefield, and we never think of what happens when they come home,” said Pascrell. “These are guys and gals that were fighting for all of us in this room. The least we can do is respond to pretty basic needs that they have when they come back.”