The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and public and private funders are pooling their resources to support the development of a veterans program that will be housed at Project H.O.M.E.’s St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence in North Philadelphia. The funds will support the program and facility renovations. Funders and supporters who made this happen include the Veterans Administration/VA Medical Center in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and State Representative John M. Perzel, the PA Housing Finance Agency, the City of Philadelphia, and Jon Bon Jovi and the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation. Jon Bon Jovi is a philanthropist and dedicated supporter of other Project H.O.M.E. initiatives both personally and through the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation. As co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team, he has a special interest and has a history of investing in the North Philadelphia neighborhood where Project H.O.M.E.’s new Veterans Program will be located.

A groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, May 9th at 3 p.m. will officially start the construction on this project. The ceremony will recognize Jon Bon Jovi, as well as local, state and federal officials including State Rep Perzel (confirmed), Mayor Michael Nutter (invited but not confirmed), Peter Dougherty, Director Homeless Veterans Programs, Dept of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. and John G. Bravacos, Regional Director, United Stats Housing and Urban Development Region III Office.

The new Veterans Program was created by Project H.O.M.E. in a unique collaboration with the VA and the Philadelphia Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Project H.O.M.E. is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations that provides services to help individuals break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. The program was developed because of the increasing number of homeless veterans who need help treating their addictions and to help them break their cycle of homelessness. Over the last year, 14 percent of Project H.O.M.E. residents at multiple sites have been identified as veterans.

Pennsylvania is home to the fifth largest veteran population in the U.S. More than 1.15 million veterans represent 9.4 percent of the total state populations (source: PA Dept of Military and Veterans Affairs, Bureau of Veterans Affairs.) The VA says the nation’s homeless veterans are mostly males and the vast majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities; 45 percent suffer from mental illness and have substance abuse problems. The VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night; 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year.

Project H.O.M.E.’s current facility for homeless men with addictions, St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence, will go through a major renovation and expansion in order to establish twelve units of transitional housing on the fourth floor designed and designated exclusively for homeless veterans. In addition, the renovation will add an elevator and four fully handicapped accessible rooms and associated bathrooms to introduce residents with physical disabilities to the program and assure that they have full access to the whole building. Since Project H.O.M.E. values green building standards, this renovation will also include many processes and products that meet green standards.

Over the years, Project H.O.M.E. has served thousands of these veterans through its existing housing and service programs; last year alone, Project H.O.M.E.’s outreach teams connected with more than 500 homeless veterans. More than 45 percent of those homeless veterans were dealing with both substance abuse and mental health disorders, with many suffering from undiagnosed and untreated PTSD.

“Many of the homeless veterans we engage are often unable or unwilling to enter the existing city shelter system or seem to fall through the cracks as they attempt to find help, so we recognize the need to create a treatment program especially for veterans,” said Project H.O.M.E. co-director Sister Mary Scullion. “In partnership with the VA Medical Center, we developed a program that will offer the intensive treatment, services, and supportive environment they need to help them improve their quality of life and get back on their feet.”

The goal of the residence is to help veterans find their way to permanent homes and productive work; medical care, job training, employment and housing assistance all will be available either on site or close by. Services available at the residence will include support groups designed for recovering veterans and others; connections for mental health and substance abuse treatment; and case management services to help residents construct a strong support network for themselves.

A health clinic next door to the center, developed in partnership with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, will be staffed by doctors and nurses who specialize in the treatment of chronic diseases associated with post- traumatic disorders and homelessness.

The location of this new program for veterans is ideal because the “Project H.O.M.E” community in this particular section of North Philadelphia has become a true resource center since there are so many services in a three- block area. One block away from St. Elizabeth’s Recovery Residence is a state-of-the-art technology center, the Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, offers a wide range of adult learning and technology training programs, including literacy classes, computer training, and industry-specific career training. Residents will also have access to jobs in Project H.O.M.E.’s own network of community businesses and residences. Residents who complete the Veterans Program will receive help in obtaining permanent housing through Project H.O.M.E.’s many partnerships and housing resources.