VETS FOR VETS
Our Vineyards Committee had the tremendous opportunity to visit the facility for Vets for Vets on Fourth Street in Pennsburg. As you know, this organization is housed in the old post office building and has been largely renovated. At present, the facility can house 4 males on the first and second floors, 1 female in an apartment on the third floor and an anticipated additional female once the final renovations are completed on the third floor.
The veterans who are housed there are referred by veterans, family members, social service counselors and those running homeless shelters. Veterans come from all over the country, but the programs and group meetings are attended by local veterans as well as the residents.
The average age of a typical resident is in the 30s, and primarily the requests for housing come from males. Individuals are carefully screened prior to acceptance into the home. The veteran’s discharge status, substance abuse dependence, and severity of health issues are reviewed, but the most important criterion to enter the one year program is a commitment to improve one’s status in life and to be accountable during the one year period. To this end, housing and food costs are provided for free for one year while the veteran attends school or work. A budget which requires sequestration of employment funds for future needs is developed. Open Link assists with preparation of a resume.
The group does not feel able to handle addiction issues. A counselor comes from Norristown several times a week to handle group meetings and provides individual counseling to those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other issues that result as the veteran transitions from military to civilian life.
One requirement for each resident is to provide a minimum of 10 hours per week of community service, such as mowing a lawn or painting for an elderly community member. No TV is allowed before 4 PM. Vets for Vets is run similarly to a military installation, with regular schedules, shared living and dining space and a commitment to both the group and the community.
In turn, the community has given back to the Vets for Vets. Some grocery stores donate items, people donate time and needed items, and businesses have provided materials to upgrade the facility. One company has donated a 50 gallon aquarium and comes monthly to maintain it; this adds such a serene feeling to the environment there. The one paid employee, veteran Jon Bittner, receives $600 per month in salary but feels his reward is the time he spends helping veterans readjust to their new surroundings. Jon enjoys giving tours and answering questions, so please feel free to call him at 484-938-8387 to arrange a small group tour.
Our Committee was deeply impressed with all that this group has accomplished and all that they do. We thank the residents who have elected to participate in the Vineyards/AmeriGas
Vets for Vets program.