Miss America Dedicates Haven for Homeless Veterans

NJ Adjutant General - Maj. Gen. Paul J. Glazar and Miss America Miss America 2000 - Ms.Heather Renee French and New Jersey's Adjutant General - Maj. Gen. Paul J. Glazar dedicated the New Jersey Veterans Haven in a public ceremony August 18.

Veterans Haven is the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs transitional housing program for homeless veterans located at 202 Spring Garden Road (off Route 30)in Winslow,N.J.In operation since January 1995, Veterans' Haven has been a temporary home to more than 270 homeless men and women veterans.

Ms.Heather Renee French,Miss America 2000,has championed homeless veterans as her platform,assisting programs such as Veterans Haven during her reign. "As the daughter of a disabled Vietnam veteran,I pledge my heart,my hands and my voice to helping veterans fight the battles they face on our nation's streets. So they don't face these battles alone,I urge all Americans to lend their support to these often forgotten men and women."

In January 2000 Veterans Haven began a $400,000 construction and expansion project jointly financed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the New Jersey DMAVA.The construction project included expanding the dining room, adding an all-purpose classroom area, and installing a computer lab.The computertraining lab for the residents is furnished with two servers and more than 12 personal computers.

The surrounding outdoor area also received a face-lift. Members of the 177th Civil Engineering Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard, cleared the parking lot behind the main building,graded it,and installed a newly surfaced parking lot and picnic area.

This expansion is the latest phase in a six year program designed to completely renovate and overhaul the building. "When the program first received the building,it had been abandoned - unused for more than five years," described Robert Durante,Veterans Haven superintendent. "A lot of the general cleanup in the first few years was done by residents."

Since the program began, 65 percent of the Haven's residents have successfully completed their recovery and returned to society a wage-earning,tax-paying citizens. The normal tay is six to 24 months allowing the veteran ample time to prepare himself to return to independent living. The program is divided into three phases -treatment; self-reclamation, and community reintegration. There are currently 50 veterans in residence, many of whom are working full- time or attending school.

Durante also indicated that the program could not have become what it is today -the only one of its kind in the country - without the caring and generous donations of many people and organizations like the Elks, Veterans of Foreign Wars,American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America. Many of the invited guests at the dedication ceremony were representing the organizations that have supported Veterans Haven. For more information on the Veterans Haven transitional housing program,call (609)561-0269.