NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) — Adjusting to civilian life after years of military service can be a huge challenge for some of our veterans–one that sometimes throws them out on the streets.
“All my friends had moved on, gone to college, got married, bought houses, and things kind of stood still for me,” Marine Corps veteran Jim Baer explained. “So it was very different when I got out. My 20s were not good to me.”
Although veterans make up a small percentage of the U.S. population, they account for nearly nine percent of the country’s homeless population. In 2018, Massachusetts had the eighth most homeless veterans in the nation.
“Things weren’t going so well in the house that I was living,” Army veteran Jacqueline McArthur-Farmer said. “I had an abusive boyfriend, so basically I didn’t have any place to go, and I ended up homeless. Through the grace of God, I found Soldier On.”
At the western Massachusetts-based organization Soldier On, struggling veterans find a place they can finally call home.
“We really became an all-resource answer that beyond the special services, you become a part of the community and that’s really where you find the beginning of the rest of your life,”Soldier On CEO Bruce Buckley said.
Soldier On provides emergency, transitional, and permanent housing for veterans in Northampton, Pittsfield, Chicopee, and Agawam. Soldier On also gives veterans access to case management, medical and mental health services, substance abuse treatment and peer support.
Jacqueline has been a resident at one of Soldier On’s transitional women’s housing units in Northampton for six months.
“Here we are all like-minded,” she said. “We’ve been through some of the same things, you know, traveled, have the experience of being in the military, so that really helps us out a lot.”
“This is my room,” Jacqueline said as she toured us around her apartment. “It’s relaxing, stress free, and it’s my own room. I don’t have anyone that will disturb or anyone that will interrupt my peace of mind.”
Most importantly, it brings back the brother and sisterhood that veterans long for after leaving the service.
“There’s a sense of camaraderie that there isn’t out on the streets,” Jim Baer said. “I mean homeless people there’s a sense of camaraderie, but once you meet another veteran it’s different. There is that connection.”
Jim found himself in the grips of alcoholism for many years after separating from the Marine Corps, eventually ending up in a homeless shelter in Worcester.
Soldier On not only provided a roof over his head, but stuck by his side during bouts of relapse with addiction. Now, thirteen years later, Jim is a full-time case manager with Soldier On.
“Without Soldier On’s support I honestly don’t know if I would have succeeded this go around,” he said. “They gave me purpose, they gave me continued support… yeah, I’d hate to think where I’d be without Soldier On, honestly.”
Soldier On provides services to veterans and their families in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
- Veterans looking for transitional housing can fill out a Referral Form that can be faxed to 413-582-3075 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Veterans looking to apply for permanent housing can fill out an application and email it to email@example.com.
- Veterans looking for Supportive Services for Veteran Families can call 866-406-8449.
- Veterans looking for help with buying a home can contact the Soldier On Success National Call Center at 888-288-3184.
Soldier On Permanent Housing
- Pittsfield 39 units — opened in 2010
- Leeds 44 units — opened in 2016
- Chicopee 43 units — opened in 2016
- Agawam (Feeding Hills) 51 units — opened in 2017
- Pittsfield 14 women units — scheduled to open Jan. 2020
- Albany, NY; 70 units — planned for construction
- Tinton Falls, NJ; 70 units — planned for construction
- Daytona, FL; 70 units — planned for construction