By Desiree Taylor
Freedom House, a long term drug and alcohol treatment facility in Hunterdon County, will offer its services to homeless veterans who participate in a new program called Veterans Haven North. Gov. Chris Christie announced this partnership after taking a tour of Freedom House, which is located on the grounds of Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital, the proposed site of the soon to open Veterans Haven North.
The governor announced plans for Veterans Haven North during his budget address. It will be modeled after an existing state run facility for homeless veterans in South Jersey known as Veterans Haven. Since it opened in Winslow Township in 1995, Veterans Haven has helped nearly a thousand homeless veterans get back on their feet. And the recidivism rate is low. Three out of every 4 veterans who completed the program remain off the streets for good and return to purposeful lives according to state officials.
The governor’s 2013 budget includes $2.3 million in startup funds for Veterans Haven North. And federal funds will help the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs provide housing, health services, and social and vocational rehabilitation to approximately 50 homeless veterans. Eventually, capacity will be expanded to 100 beds, hardly enough to meet the high demand. There are an estimated 8,300 homeless veterans in New Jersey.
Veterans Haven North is scheduled to open in July, shortly after Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital closes. Staff and other supporters who oppose the closing of the hospital rallied down the street from the facility this morning. The governor says closing the facility is part of a plan to put more patients in community settings and decrease the number of patients that are institutionalized.