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New complex to offer home for homeless vets

Work is underway on a housing project that will offer apartments to homeless veterans in central New York . The new Van Keuren Square will help a population that is sometimes overlooked.

The $11.4 million project will turn a vacant building on East Genesee Street in Syracuse into a three-story housing unit that will contain 50 furnished one- and two-bedroom apartments.  The only people who can move in will be veterans who are participants in the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Healthcare for the Homeless program.  Tamara Goodacre works with homeless vets in Syracuse, and says the key to helping these vets is offering affordable, safe housing.

"It's easy in Syracuse to find a one bedroom apartment. But whether it's safe, whether it's quality is a question. And this offers that in a way we don't have right now," Goodacre said.

She says statistics show that on any given night, there are 65 veterans in homeless shelters across the area. Goodacre also says the complex will allow members of that population to also find strength being with other vets.

"When you put veterans together, they are a force to be reckoned with," she said. "They rely on each other, they really come together and have great potential for leadership. And this project brings hope, that they are recognized, that there's something there for them."  

The complex will be named Van Kueren Square, after Robert Van Keuren, a veteran who was once homeless, and has worked for decades with homeless vets across upstate New York.

"Homeless veterans in this country for a long time have been left behind," said Van Keuren. "Projects like this, communities that come together like this, they hold true to the one thing that we always want to remember, that we don't leave anyone behind."

The complex opens in a year.  There will also be training and education room and computer and exercise facilities in the building. The project is funded in part through the 2011 Regional Economic Development Council Initiative.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.