POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A group devoted to helping homeless veterans in Dutchess County is losing its funding.
The Veterans Administration just cut a half a million dollars from Hudson River Housing. As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, the move could have devastating consequences.
Vietnam-era Army veteran Mitchell Schwerkert, 66, lived on the street for years but has now settled into a 26-unit apartment building dedicated to housing homeless veterans in Poughkeepsie, called Liberty Station.
“Eat what we want, cook what we want, clean up – you know, everything is real good,” he told Conybeare. “It’s home.”
Unfortunately, the charity that runs Liberty Station just got its federal funding eliminated, as of September 30.
“This completely blindsided us,” Hudson River Housing Executive Director Christa Hines said.
Hines said the nonprofit scored 98.5 out of 100 on its application, but still got denied by the VA after being approved five years in a row.
She fears some veterans, like Schwekert, could wind up losing their homes.
“It’s a $500,000 grant. So without it, it’s going to be very difficult to keep operating,” Hines said.
The VA would not answer CBS2’s questions about why the application was denied, but a spokesperson said it will still provide another $1.9 million to similar veterans programs in the Hudson Valley next year.
A VA spokesperson also claims, “our current capacity to serve these veterans will not be affected.”
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro called that absurd.
“There just is no excuse. These are men and women who risked their lives, who are struggling and need some support,” he said. “And the VA ought to stand shoulder to shoulder with us.”
Air Force veteran Gemma Gaspard was mentally ill and homeless when Hudson River Housing helped her.
“These guys have saved my life,” she said. “This is not supporting our veterans, not even a little. This is the opposite of supporting our veterans.”
She wants the VA to reverse its decision to help Schwerkert and 450 other local veterans who now have homes thanks to Hudson River Housing.
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