Program reaches out to homeless Western Pennsylvania veterans
The Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania can count Cindy Clark as one of its many success stories.
Before coming to the nonprofit veteran support group in March 2012 for help, Army veteran Clark, 51, had no permanent address and few job prospects. The group required her to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings and counseled her on job searches.
In July 2012, Clark got an apartment in Sharpsburg, and she is working in a North Hills senior care center.
“I'd like to see people make it like I did,” Clark said on Saturday, watching as hundreds of volunteers reached out to help local homeless veterans in an Uptown church.
Organizers said more than 500 homeless veterans and family members attended the sixth annual Stand Down event in Shepherd's Heart Fellowship. For some, the day provided a brief respite from the streets and a place to clean up, obtain some fresh clothing and grab a meal. Volunteers and social service agencies provided assistance with housing, food, medical care, eye exams and glasses, dental care, haircuts, job search advice and other services.
“This shows how nonprofits and the private sector can work together to address a problem that's our problem to solve,” said Al Mercer, executive director of the leadership program, based in the South Side. “When I say ‘our,' I mean the community.”
Annually, the group serves more than 2,100 veterans and their families and makes 5,000 referrals for essential services.
In 2009, the federal government announced an initiative to end veterans' homelessness by the end of 2015, and that number has been steadily dropping. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are about 62,000 homeless veterans nationwide.
According to statistics from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Allegheny County's Department of Human Services reported the homeless veteran population fell in the county from 330 in 2012 to 207 in 2013. In 2011-12, there was a 5 percent increase in veterans' homelessness in the county. Mercer said the increase might be the result of more veterans coming forward for help.
“Homeless veterans are coming out of the woodwork, so to speak,” Mercer said. “Under the bridges, they're out of sight, out of mind.”
Mercer estimated that within the Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area, including several Southwestern Pennsylvania counties and portions of West Virginia and Ohio, there are about 238,000 veterans. Of those, he said, reports are that 10 percent are living below the poverty line, and 2,300 are at risk of being homeless or already are homeless.
BNY Mellon, a sponsor of Saturday's event, donated $100,000 to the Veterans Leadership Program on Friday for ongoing support efforts.
“Veterans don't need us to pick them up,” said Michele Q. Margittai, leadership program director of development and community relations. “They need us to walk alongside them as they live in our area.”
One man who identified himself as Marine Corps veteran Dallas Corleone said he was grateful for the services offered Saturday. He said he's been living on Downtown streets and sleeping on the steps of a church since arriving in Pittsburgh nearly two years ago, but he plans to use the services of the leadership program.
“It's good that they have this,” Corleone said. “It shows that people do care about our veterans.”
For more information about the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, call 412-481-8200.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Memorial Day marked with several events in Kittanning
- LaRosa Boys & Girls Club of McKeesport remembers war dead
- McKeesport mayor believes city’s ceremony reflects Memorial Day’s true meaning
- Sports camps added at East Franklin’s Belmont Complex
- Pirates pitcher Morton turns in solid performance in win over Marlins
- With space to spare, Pittsburgh International draws corporate jet carrier
- Consistency keeps Cellone’s Bakery customers coming back
- Cops: Man shoots 11-year-old with BB gun in McKeesport; boy critical
- Accident at West Virginia’s Cheat Lake sends boaters to hospital
- ‘Voice of Pittsburgh’ was proud of Mon Valley roots
- Pirates notebook: Morton’s return to Pirates means Liz leaves