A Home For The Brave

Lancaster Barracks Will Provide Housing For Veterans In Treatment Program

When the Honorable Jeffrey Wright convened Veterans Court on Aug. 3, rather than deal with issues of a criminal nature, he turned the floor over to Ray D'Agostino, chief executive officer of Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP), who revealed exciting news.

Thanks to a $15,000 gift from the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation, LHOP and the Veterans County Community Partnership (VCCP) have passed the halfway mark of the $100,000 goal established for the Lancaster Barracks.

"We can officially say the Lancaster Barracks project is a go," D'Agostino said.

The barracks will provide stable housing for former military men as they adapt to civilian life and work through the third and fourth stages of the Veterans Court program. Wright established Veterans Court five years ago to provide veterans in the criminal justice system an individualized treatment program. Available for individuals who are charged with certain crimes, the treatment program is based on national research and program models. A total of 34 people have graduated from the program so far.

A house in the southern part of the city will be purchased by LHOP and renovated by Veterans Court participants. Eddie Patton of the Community Action Partnership (CAP) CAPital Workforce program will serve as a sort of "squad leader" as the house is brought up to code and made safe and efficient. Patton will also teach the men employment skills, with the goal of full-time employment with a living wage and benefits for each participant, said CAP chief executive officer Dan Jurman.

"People with barriers to employment ... (can) have careers and put their pasts behind them," Jurman remarked.

D'Agostino said he imagines the Lancaster Barracks will become a pipeline to success. Through the partnership with LHOP, whose mission is to promote quality, fair, and affordable housing in Lancaster County, and CAPital Workforce, Veterans Court participants will have ongoing opportunities to rehabilitate homes and gain skills. "This will transform the lives of veterans," D'Agostino commented. "Veterans don't leave that status, and we don't leave our buddies behind."

During the gathering on Aug. 3, Brig. Gen. Mike Gould of the Pennsylvania Veterans Foundation presented a check for $15,000 to D'Agostino and Bonnie Bowman, county recorder of deeds and chair of the VCCP. Gould noted that the foundation was formed in 2011 to help veterans in crisis situations. He added that the foundation also looks for programs to help veterans, and the Lancaster Barracks will do that.

The house will be purchased inexpensively and is expected to be finished by Thanksgiving. Part of the $100,000 goal will be reserved for maintenance, and the rest will be available for rehab of the house. LHOP is the fiduciary agent, and LHOP director of development Laurie Moir is accepting tax-deductible contributions for the project.

"The community has responded tremendously," D'Agostino remarked. "This provides a 360-degree view of how the community can come together to solve problems."

Lancaster South Rotary president Dale Hamby also spoke after the check presentation. "We're proud to make a financial contribution, but we will also do work at the house," he said.

Rotary secretary PJ Roberts will serve as property manager of the Lancaster Barracks.

"I'm amazed at all of the agencies involved," Roberts remarked. "The veterans have a lot of (support)."

"This is a fabulous example of the community coming together," Wright remarked. "It's a wonderful thing. I'm really looking forward to the Barracks."

For more information about the Lancaster Barracks or to donate, readers may visit http://www.lhop.org/lancaster-barracks/ or call 717-291-9945, ext. 108.

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