It is difficult to do enough for our military veterans, who put their lives on hold to serve this country. That effort will get a boost when a “one-stop” assistance center for military veterans has its grand opening on Monday.
There are anywhere from 100,000 to as many as 250,000 military veterans in Western New York, according to the center’s organizers. Some of them need help coping with the stresses of life.
Some struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury or other service-related challenges from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Aging veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars are often left to navigate a support system spread out over many locations.
A coalition of independent service providers, led by the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition and Goodwill Industries of Western New York, created the nonprofit Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York to pull all the existing pieces together. The center is based on the blueprint developed by the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester.
Home base is the second floor at 1280 Main St., located conveniently along public transportation routes and near outside services such as the Veterans Housing Coalition, VA Healthcare for Homeless Veterans, City Mission, Child and Family Services and St. Vincent DePaul’s Thrift Store, to name just a few.
The idea is to provide wraparound services from partner agencies, coordinated by the center’s small staff. Partners include the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition and Goodwill Industries of Western New York, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo. A veteran can go to the center and receive help from as many providers as necessary.
Erie County is also a participant, primarily in the mental health services area. Some veterans have had contact with the county’s Department of Social Services in accessing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The effort is starting out with the majority of its funding provided by corporations and foundations. The plan is to establish a track record, then evolve to what organizers say is a “more sustainable mix” with the majority of funding shifting to government and private individuals. A capital campaign to secure its own building will begin in the third year.
Organizers recognize that the new center will not solve each and every problem facing veterans and their families, but they hope it will provide easier, barrier-free access to services.
It’s a worthy goal – and certainly something our veterans deserve.