Soldier On helps homeless veterans find homes in Tinton Falls NJ
TINTON FALLS – Soldier On’s Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Village on Essex Road is about five months from giving homes to homeless veterans.
Bruce Buckley, CEO of Soldier On who was on site Wednesday, said the first residents should be moved in by Nov. 1. He said they have enough candidates on the waiting list to fill the 70 single-bedroom apartments that make up the village.
“We know the struggles veterans face. Roughly 90% of veterans who move into our permanent housing are successful. And I’ll define success to mean that 10 years later, they’re still living with us,” Buckley said.
The veterans on the list are a mix of chronically homeless, at-risk and low-income vets from Monmouth, Ocean and seven other counties across the state for which Soldier On provides services.
There are over 400,000 veterans in New Jersey, out of which 551 are homeless, according to 2019 data from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
“This operation is long overdue in this area and it is the right way to help veterans who are homeless,” said Gary Baldwin a former Tinton Falls councilman and Air Force veteran who was influential in bringing Soldier On to Tinton Falls along with many other past and current elected officials.
Monmouth County Commissioner Lillian Burry contacted Soldier On in 2011 to bring veteran housing to the county.
A site was scouted for, but not found at Fort Monmouth. In 2016, Soldier On was offered a 13-acre parcel on Essex Road for $1 by the borough under the leadership of former Mayor Gerald Turning.
That land was originally donated to the borough by Seabrook Village to satisfy its affordable housing requirement.
Soldier On, a nonprofit from Leeds, Massachusetts, committed to ending veteran homelessness, partnered with WinnCompanies on the project. The general contractor is Scozzari & Sons and PS & S is the architect.
The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency provided most of the financing for the $23 million veterans village.
The rent will run from $974 to $1,305 a month, but most vets will receive rental assistance. The rooms will come furnished.
Soldier On will provide veteran services, help with transportation and all veterans who reside at the village will be required to complete a Life Skills Program.
“For the first time in years, even decades, many veterans will finally have a decent place to live and hope and prosper,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, whose 2001 law for homeless veterans first authorized funding for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development-Veteran Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which will be used as a major source of rental assistance for the vets.
A truly permanent place
To help create a peaceful environment for veterans who may suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, the apartment building was constructed with added soundproofing on the floors and between the walls.
Buckley said many veterans who reside with them end up living there until death. As such, the village will feature a columbarium, a structure for the respectful and public storage of funerary urns holding cremated remains of a person.
An eternal flame will also be lit at the columbarium.
When Jersey Shore native Dan Radel is not reporting the news, you can find him in a college classroom where he is a history professor. Reach him @danielradelapp; 732-643-4072; firstname.lastname@example.org.