It's been five months since 16 homeless veterans moved into permanent supportive housing thanks to the American Legion Post in southeastern Connecticut. The Jewett City Post renovated its own building to create the apartments. The project was funding by the federal VA with help from private donations, Second district Congressman Joe Courtney, and the state of Connecticut.
This past summer, WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil introduced us to one of the new tenants, an Army veteran. She visited him recently as he prepares for his first Christmas inside his own place.
Lucy: So your apartment is 2 A?
Jeff: Yes it is. Look at this.
Jeff MacDonald shows off a sofa bed covered with comfortable afghans and blankets as he invites me in. A flat screen TV is mounted above it, tuned to the local news. An eat in kitchen is to the right as he motions for me to sit down at a small table.
His apartment is clean and bright, the sun streams in between two windows. His favorite chess set sits on the window sill. MacDonald jokes his place is the envy of the other tenants in the building. "Everybody's mad at me cause I have the biggest apartment!"
When I met him in July, he told me was how appreciative he was to have a permanent roof over his head. In 1975, MacDonald joined the Army. After leaving the service, he battled alcoholism and he drifted from place to place, living at friends' houses or living outside.
Looking around his apartment now, it’s clear he's grateful for what he has. "Feels like home instead of out in the woods. And the woods are right down the road." Federal VA housing vouchers known as HUD-VASH pay the rent for each veteran living in the apartment building. And supportive staff is literally an elevator ride down to the lobby where there's space for the veterans to meet with caseworkers and medical staff from the VA who come there for appointments.
MacDonald says that kind of support means a lot. "It's all up to you. If you need any help there they are. Then you got some people who don't realize the help is staring them in the face. So I help them out. " He says giving advice or lending an ear is the least he can do as a way to say thanks for having a place to call his own.