Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Local shelter for homeless veterans gets upgrade

Veterans Outreach Center

The Richards House homeless shelter on South Avenue, which serves homeless veterans, is about to undergo some major changes.

The site, which currently offers 30 beds for homeless vets, will be expanding to 46 beds in total with the help of a $200,000 grant from the state.

Army veteran Laura Stradley, executive director of Veterans Outreach Center, said renovations are expected to start next month at the center which she says offers more support than a typical shelter.

“We have programs we have support and we help them get trained and back into the civilian workforce. We help them with staying in recovery if substance abuse is an issue and all of that happens at the Richards House.”

According to Veterans Affairs, more than 37,000 veterans are homeless across the nation. In Monroe County, 76 veterans are reportedly homeless while five of them are without shelter, according to Partners Ending Homelessness.

Stradley wants to see more homeless vets transition out of homelessness, and with more beds at the shelter, she’s hopeful that fewer veterans at risk will be without support.

Veterans like former Marine Corp. Colonel Albert Manuel, who said he was kicked out of a family member’s home before he ended up at Richards House in February.

“I was ready to give up when I got here. I’m not like that anymore today,” said Manuel. “No place is perfect but Richards House, it gives you the opportunity to be responsible and to find confidence that you might have lost.”

Manuel said one of the challenges he faced when he returned to civilian life was finding a job. Stradley said it was the same for her, too. Both had joined the armed forces as teenagers, so when they returned, they didn’t have a typical employment record. 

“It was hard for me to get hired anywhere based on my military credentials and that was really frustrating,” Manuel said.

He now works as a peer support specialist with Compeer Rochester, an agency that aids veterans struggling with mental health and substance abuse. Its work that he said gives new meaning to his lived experiences.

“What we go through sometimes it’s not for us exclusively. The things I’ve gone through, I’ve learned from them, I’ve grown from them, and I believe that I survived so that I can help the next person come through that’s what I really believe and I have all the gratitude in the world for that.”

Richards House is named after Reverend Thomas Richards, a veteran who served from 1942 to 1946. Funding to rehabilitate the shelter is part of the fundraising campaign Operation Safe Haven.

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.