2017-05-25 / Editorial

Support our homeless heroes

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

One veteran homeless, is one too many.

Sadly, there are individuals who fought for the rights and freedoms we enjoy today that are struggling with basic necessities including a roof over their heads.

There are two programs that provide transitional housing to veterans who are without a permanent residence and need a hand.

The Arthur B. Huot House provides 10 efficiency apartments in Saco for veterans who are homeless. The program, which is the only co-ed veterans transitional living program in Maine, provides veterans with stable housing and additional services to help them transition back into the community. Named in honor of the late U.S. Navy veteran Arthur “Skip” Huot, the program is operated in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Maine State Housing. The Veterans Career House in Biddeford provides safe supportive transitional housing and support services to eight male veterans who are homeless. Its evidence-based programming helps veterans gain stability and life skills to re-enter their community and the work force. We are really thankful that these programs exist, but it’s sad we even have to have them.

These individuals though need more than just assistance with housing, they need a way back into the workforce to create a better life for themselves.

My nonprofit service organization, Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, which is housed out of the Biddeford- Saco Chamber of Commerce, has worked on veteransrelated events for a few years now. From hosting welcome back rallies for our Vietnam veterans to bringing area veterans groups together to tackle important issues that pertain to veteran support resources and community issues.

We have recently created the Support Our Heroes Fund that will offer veterans in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach who are currently in transitional housing or without a permanent residence, at least one free course through Old Orchard Beach-Saco Adult Education.

The goal is to advance their skills in a particular area to gain employment opportunities in the ever-changing job market. Courses that are eligible include business, skills training, trades and computers/technology among other certifications.

Veterans interested in taking these free courses can contact Dave Durkee, director of the local adult ed, at 934- 7922. We hope to expand the fund to be accessible to all veterans in the near future. For now, it’s targeted to those most in need.

So far we’ve raised $1,750 for the fund. With the average class cost at less than $100, we will be able to help a good number of veterans. I’d like to give a shout out to our sponsors, without whom this program wouldn’t be possible. Thank you to Saco Valley Credit Union for its strong financial support of $1,000. Our remaining sponsors include the Valentino/Scamman Realtor Team at Berkshire Hathaway, Keep it Local Maine advertising magazine, Sandy Taylor of Goldstar wives, and Town & Country Credit Union. This list is growing daily and we would love to add you.

If you would like to learn more about the fund or donate to the cause, you can visit our website at www.SacoBayCenter.org.

As we look to Memorial Day celebrations, remembering those who gave their lives for this country, we must never forget the brave individuals among us right in our own community that could use more than just our respect and gratitude. Together, we must do everything we can to get these heroes back on their feet with the support resources they deserve. It’s the least we can do.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is owner of Chenette Media LLC, a multimedia public relations company, and is the president/ CEO of the Saco Bay Center of Civic Engagement, a 501c3 nonprofit service organization. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook.com/JustinChenette.com.

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