Assistance wanted for returning soldiers

With thousands of veterans coming home to Massachusetts after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, city officials tried this week to figure out how to better provide services to the changing face of the returning soldiers.

“There are more women serving than ever before, there are more military families and more younger veterans,” said City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.

Councilors Felix Arroyo and Sal LaMattina held the hearing during which officials from various veteran organizations testified.

At the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, 306 sober, honorably discharged veterans are given shelter. About a third of them are young men and women, said Larry Fitzmaurice, the agency’s executive.

The city’s veterans services Commissioner Eugene Vaillancourt said that his agency handles about 700 veteran’s cases, but that there are only three investigators working to help.

Besides the heavy caseload, Vaillancourt said that homelessness is another concern.

“Homelessness right now is the biggest problem we have; but believe me, it is improving,” he said.

George Murray, the state’s Veterans of Foreign Wars commander, urged officials to hire veteran liaisons for city departments, especially police and fire, where many returning veterans go to work after their service.

City officials said they would seek solutions to the suggestions of the veterans who testified.

“I know this is not a quick fix. … But I think as a city, we owe it to all of our veterans to work together,” LaMattina said.


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