There are about 1,200 veterans in Allegheny County who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Over the last year or so there has been an increase in the number of women and women with children who are in need of emergency housing.
“Our shelters are over-stressed, and they were coming into our office with no place to go,” said Michele Margittai with the Veteran’s Leadership Project. “So we partnered with Action Housing and we rent apartment units and we place women veterans in these units for 30 to 60 days so they can get back up on their feet, get them out of that housing crisis.”
On Wednesday two more units were opened, these in Millvale. They are the sixth and seven units to open in the program. In addition to housing, the program also offers services to the women.
“When they (veterans) come home all they need is possibly a chance, or possibly someone to help them and get them connected to something that they might need, whether it’s housing, employment or any other kind of service,” she said, “giving them that bridge so that they can move forward in their lives because we owe it, as a community, to our veterans because they served our country.”
One of the veterans to come through the program is Khrystal Brown. She is in the Army and did a tour in Afghanistan. When she came home, she said she had nothing and was sleeping on a friend’s couch, but was running out of time there and was at risk of being homeless. She said she couldn’t find a job without a permanent address.
“It is very frustrating, especially when you come home and you can’t find a job,” Brown said. “Even my car insurance went up when I came home because I didn’t have car insurance for six months. You think when you go serve your country you come home and it’s going to be nice, but there’s just so many walls you have to knock down when you come back, it is very frustrating.”
After securing housing, Brown said she was able to focus on rebuilding her life.
“Recently I just started my own business because I could not find a job,” she said. “Being able to stay in a home for, I think I was there for 45 days, it gave me the peace of mind to be able to put a business plan together and file my LLCs and things of that nature, so I am so grateful to be a part of this program.”
Brown now has her own apartment and is working on growing her personal training business.
The Millvale multi-unit facility was donated to Action Housing by William and Paula Griffin, and volunteers refurbished it. Furniture for the units was donated.