Veterans Voices: Providing a local base, purpose for homeless veterans

Veterans Voices

“If I didn’t come up here, I’d be dead already," says Army veteran Lance Robinson

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — One of the Veterans Outreach Center’s many missions is to help homeless veterans.

They have a facility off of South Avenue that can house struggling veterans and provide stability called “Richards House,” serving the homeless for more than 20 years, with about 30 beds. 

“On any given night in our community, unfortunately, we know there are closer to 80 homeless vets,” said Laura Stradley, Veterans Outreach Center Executive Director.

Stradley says this program provides much-needed stability. 

“Military culture is very different than civilian culture as we know,” adding, “I’d say the average length of stay is probably closer to six months.”

A program like this, she says, can help veterans in their most vulnerable moments. 

“We know that homelessness is one of the elements that cause people to be at greater risk for suicide,” she said.

Also substance abuse. A Texas native and Army veteran of the Iraq War, Lance Robinson found himself struggling with combat trauma.

“Rockets and mortars would just come shooting in at us and it got to the point where we didn’t care anymore. You didn’t know if you were going to live or die,” he said “People that had … just bodies. We saw pretty much anything you could imagine.”

Robinson turned to substance abuse for years. With a base here, he found help, sobriety, and a job. This program, he says, is unlike anything else in the country.

“I was doing pretty bad. if I didn’t come up here, I’d be dead already,” he said.

Stradley says those here still have access to everything at the VOC north campus, including education, training, job search help, substance abuse counseling, and mental health services. The tools provided, veterans already know how to use.

“The guys who come here have already been successful because they’ve already served their country,” she said.

Stradley says they plan on expanding operations at Richards House in the near future.

On November 5th, the VOC is holding its fundraising gala at Oak Hill. 

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