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December 05. 2012 10:39PM

Fundraising starts to help homeless vets

PLYMOUTH - About 50 area residents, including several veterans and formerly homeless veterans, applauded last Thursday as Taylor Caswell, president of the Soldier On Development Company, kicked off a fundraiser to build a permanent housing development for homeless veterans.

"They fought for us, they deserve to live in a home in America," Caswell said.

Soldier On is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that works with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies to provide veterans with shelter and support in an environment that offers dignity, integrity and hope.

The organization's mission is to offer a permanent source of care for veterans that includes immediate and long-term housing with services delivered where they live. The project is designed to assist them in their transition from homelessness to homeownership. Soldier on has 15 veteran housing sites in nine states.

Services offered include mental health therapy, substance abuse counseling, job training and even employment opportunities.

Caswell spoke of the success of the organization's other facilities, particularly one in Pittsfield, Mass.

"(Veterans) have gone from being homeless to having a shelter to owning their home," he said. "They also enjoy life together rather than being alone somewhere else."

The event marked the beginning of a fundraising effort for Soldier On's first New Hampshire permanent housing community, said Cathy Bentwood, director of the Bridge House Homeless shelter in Plymouth and a member of the local Soldier On leadership team.

The goal is to alleviate the problem of homeless veterans in the North Country and statewide, she said. The group is planning a veterans' housing facility in Holderness, though details of the project are still being worked out.

The facility would house about 50 veterans living in small, single-residency units. They would buy into the facility, paying an initial fee of about $2,500, and then would pay a monthly rent toward ownership.

The goal for Phase 1 of the fundraising project is $75,000, which will cover the predevelopment costs.

Common Man owner Alex Ray has offered a 1-to-1 match for the first $25,000 committed.

The estimated total cost is $5-million-$6.25-million.


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