The debt owed our nation’s military veterans, including those who stormed ashore on Normandy’s beaches 71 years ago this weekend, will never be paid.
But two recent local initiatives that focus on housing, health and justice for those wounded warriors who find the real world harder to navigate than a minefield are a welcome down payment.
Later this month, a Veterans Treatment Court will begin to offer Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges an innovative sentencing alternative for felons who served their country.
And last month, the “Healthy Communities Initiative – Veterans Housing Project” – a joint venture of Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services and the Cuyahoga Land Bank — began renovating 10 residential units for veterans in Collinwood, across St. Clair Avenue from one of the health network’s clinics.
The land bank donated the properties to the federally funded community health nonprofit, said land bank president Gus Frangos. The land bank also invested $50,000 to help offset the estimated $500,000 it will cost to rehab the properties. Doors are expected to open by May 2016.
The project will provide safe, affordable housing to homeless vets and their families and easy access to health care. There are approximately between 1,500 and 1,700 veterans who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless each year in Cuyahoga County, according to the local Department of Veterans Affairs office.
It is exactly the kind of community program that Common Pleas Judge Michael Jackson, who will preside over the Veterans Treatment Court, may tap. The vet-centric court will initially take on a docket limited to 60 men and women veterans convicted of felonies who are on — or eligible for — probation, said Jackson, a Vietnam Marine vet.
Veterans must volunteer for the program and sign a participant agreement. Each will be assigned a mentor who is also a veteran. They will meet every two weeks beginning June 25.
The court will focus on treating substance abuse and mental health issues as well as job training and housing. Each session will include a Legal Aid attorney and VA representatives.
Those vets not eligible for VA benefits because of an other-than-honorable discharge from the military will be matched with appropriate community programs, Jackson said.
“We want you to succeed,” Jackson said of the vets.
And that is a wonderful pledge to all area veterans.
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