Chronic homelessness and mental health problems among veterans were made even more evident nationwide at the onset of the Covid pandemic. Thanks to a $2 million grant from the state, local nonprofit Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard will soon be able to help more veterans in its new multipurpose building.
A grant from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) will fund the construction of the building at 945 Washington Blvd. in Larimer. It will include eight apartments on the top two floors, plus space for behavioral health services, exercise and mental health programs on the ground floor.
Construction is expected to begin this fall. The architect and contractor have not been named yet. In June 2021, the City of Pittsburgh transferred the land to the Urban Redevelopment Authority for sale to Veterans Place.
Many homeless veterans were temporarily housed in hotels to get them off the streets and to provide a safe haven during the Covid-19 pandemic, says Maria Mongelluzzo, development manager for Veterans Place. The aim of the new project is to make sure those veterans don’t end up back on the street.
Additionally, the building will provide supportive services to ensure that veterans have the necessary tools and resources for a sustainable future.
“Many of these veterans are not Veterans Affairs-eligible and cannot access existing VA programs to address these issues,” says Mongelluzzo. “The on-campus multi-purpose building will help Veterans Place fill this gap.”
The new apartments for at-risk and homeless veterans will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They will be an extension of the existing Veterans Place Transitional Housing Program, which can accommodate 48 homeless veterans for up to a 24-month stay. The average monthly housing occupancy rate for the program is 96 percent, says Mongelluzzo, as the population of homeless veterans continues to rise.
Any homeless veteran wishing to become a resident of Veterans Place should inquire in person from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m at Veterans Place Service Center at 945 Washington Blvd. The staff conducts interviews on a weekly basis. To be eligible, you must have served in a branch of the United States military (no time of service requirement) and have not been dishonorably discharged.
Veterans Place also offers a computer lab, smart classroom, workforce development program, commercial kitchen, free laundry facilities, shower facilities, and an on-site food pantry.
The organization is able to operate because of the continued support from the community, says Mongelluzzo. In addition to seeking volunteers, Veterans Place accepts donations of new and unused items including socks, toiletries, men’s and women’s clothing, pillows and blankets.
“The new three-story multipurpose building will serve as an expansion for Veterans Place to meet the needs of the expanding population of homeless veterans,” says Veterans Place Executive Director Rob Hamilton.
“As a veteran who has previously experienced homelessness, these services provide the ability for veterans to find a safe place where they will have the support to work toward living a successful life,” says Hamilton.