Bay Shore nonprofit United Veterans Beacon House (UVBH) announced on May 19 that it has taken over the 42-bed Veterans Residence at Northport Veterans Administration Medical Center from the Salvation Army. The move brings to 34 the amount of sites at which Beacon House runs shelters, transitional housing and low-income housing for veterans and others. There are 350 beds at the sites.
Beacon House President/CEO Frank Amalfitano, an Air Force veteran of Vietnam, said he bid for the contract “because it’s an emergency shelter for veterans where they take their first steps to recovering their lives. This is where it all starts.” Amalfitano said that according to the VA, “seventy-eight percent of our residents move on to permanent housing.”The Northport VA Residence handles 400 to 500 homeless veterans a year. According to the center’s homeless program director Greg Curran, the average length of stay is 90 days, after which a veteran goes back into the community or moves to transitional housing or HUD-VASH permanent housing. The HUD-VASH program is a joint effort of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA. Under the program, HUD allocates 400 Section 8 vouchers on Long Island. The vouchers allow veterans and their families to live in market rate rental units while the VA provides case management services. A housing subsidy is paid to landlords on behalf of the veteran.
Northport VA director Philip Moschitta called the transition from the Salvation Army, which had run the shelter since 1997, to Beacon House, “a marriage made in heaven. We’re very pleased to be partnering with Beacon House. We’ve worked together since 1999. Having a facility [for the homeless] on site, a veteran has access to all our programs, it eliminates transportation problems and allows us to work together. It’s a place for them to go before the staff can get engaged.”
UVBH staff connects its clients to education, job training, counselling, medication and VA benefits. Residents usually stay six to 18 months in its transitional homes before returning to self-sufficiency. “This elevates us to another level,” Amalfitano said of the Northport acquisition. “It’s extremely busy, the turnaround is short and a lot of our veterans can walk to service. We have a full link now from emergency housing to transitional to permanent housing. We’ve come full circle…It’s time to come out of the shadows and let people who don’t know us find out who we are and what we do. We seem to be the go-to organization.”
A few weeks ago, Beacon House opened a computer room for its Northport clients. The room was renovated, painted, decorated and supplied with donated computers through the efforts of 11th-grader Cecilia Orduna, who chose veterans in need as her Girl Scouts Gold Award project. Beacon House Residence Director Ed Olsen said, “this is probably the most used room in the facility. It provides access to the Internet and job sites and for working on resumes. We have an employee to help them become computer-literate.”