© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Doors Open In Springfield For Homeless Veterans


     Homeless veterans can now apply to rent a studio apartment in a new building next to a veterans outreach center in Springfield, Massachusetts.  The complex is the culmination of years of work by a Vietnam War veteran who has dedicated his life to helping fellow veterans.

   There are 20 studio apartments in a three-story building along with a day room, conference center, laundry room, and 21 parking spaces.

   The apartments come fully-furnished.

    " It's not a lot of space, but it is comfortable," said Ron King, the resident manager.

       He explains the complex provides the homeless veterans, many of whom suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other service-related health issues, with more than just a roof over their heads.

    " There are people who come in and help them with any transitional needs they have," said King. "Soldiers are always in transition. So this is a good facility for them to be in because they can get all the help they need."

    King said he got the job as live-in house manager because of his training as a chef and also because he can relate to the other residents.  King came back from military service disabled after he broke both legs in what turned out to be his final jump as an Army paratrooper.

    "We as veterans have to help each other because we are the only ones who understand the plight of the veterans," said King.

    Veterans can apply to live in the complex if they can’t find housing and earn less than $17,500 a year.  The veterans pay 30 percent of their gross income for rent.

    Harold Sanabria, who left the Army in 1995 after 13 years in the service, said if not for the new apartments he would be in a homeless shelter.

   " This is a blessing," said Sanabria.  " I thank the Lord and my country for everything they've done for me. I am very grateful."

   The new apartment building is located next door to the Bilingual Veterans Outreach Center.

   " That is the beauty of it," said Executive Director Gumersindo Gomez.   " They are so close to the outreach center that we will be able to support these veterans in any need they have to ensure they lack nothing."

    The housing complex is not limited to Hispanic veterans.

  " Bilingual only implies that some people who work in the agency speak Spanish," said Gomez. " The clientele here is 70 percent Caucasian, about 20 percent African-American, and about 5-6 percent Hispanic."

   Gomez, who was an Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, founded the outreach center 30 years ago to help veterans and their families apply for government benefits.

  Gomez began to pursue developing the apartment building for homeless veterans after he saw a similar project in Brockton in 2009 and spoke with a veterans housing consultant.

  Construction on the $2.8 million complex, located in a densely populated residential neighborhood in Springfield’s North End, began in April 2015 and was completed last spring.  The project was paid for by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

   At a ceremony earlier this year, the complex was dedicated as the Sergeant Gomez Veterans Campus.

   " I deserve it," Gomez said with a hearty laugh.  " I think it  is well-named and will leave a legacy behind for others to follow."

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
Related Content