A day after city hall endorsed legislation for a separate department to serve the city’s veterans, nonprofit Urban Pathways opened a new housing complex for veterans in the Morrisania neighborhood in the south Bronx.
The 43-bed facility, which is fully furnished and will cost residents $500 a month, should be filled with homeless or low-income veterans within 120 days, said Frederick Shack, CEO of Urban Pathways. The organization is screening eight veterans they hope to have moved in by the end of November.
One of those veterans will be Gloria Montes, a retired military police sergeant who has lived at a nearby Urban Pathways building for the last year.
“It was both an honor and a privilege to serve this nation,” Montes said.
Montes said after she was honorably discharged she had a great job and apartment for many years, but eventually fell on “hard times,” and was evicted.
“After months of sleeping on the floor of friends' apartments, or in my car, I knew I needed help,” Montes said. “I needed help to take care of myself mentally and physically … I needed to find a safe place to live and a safe place for my dogs.”
The rooms in the new seven-story complex smelled like fresh paint and were decorated with bright colors on Thursday. The apartments overlook Boston Road and a courtyard where Urban Pathways has a complex of buildings and a community garden. Eventually, the facility will house 30 homeless and 13 low-income veterans.
The building received its certificate of occupancy on Wednesday, the same night Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Loree Sutton threw their support behind a City Council bill to set up a separate department. The council is expected to vote on the bill next week.
“The Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs was established in 1987 by Mayor Koch, himself a veteran,” Sutton said. “Over these almost-30 years since MOVA was established, mayors on both sides of the aisle kind of just let it languish until this mayor,” Sutton said.
De Blasio has pledged to end veteran homelessness by the end of the year.
According to the nightly city homeless report on Nov. 4, there were 57,486 homeless people staying in New York City shelters, and 348 of them were veterans in short-term housing.
Sutton later told Metro the city has about 800 homeless veterans — down from about 16,000 when de Blasio took office — and just 11 veterans are street homeless.
“We know who they are, and if they want to come in out of the cold, we're ready to get them placed,” Sutton said.