- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014

ROCKY HILL, Conn. (AP) - A push to end homelessness among Connecticut veterans by 2015 is generating renewed interest in the state’s Veterans Home in Rocky Hill.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office is creating a working group that will determine the best way forward for the 90-acre complex that serves military veterans, said Andrew Doba, the governor’s communications direction. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman will lead the effort.

Advocates for the homeless estimate Connecticut has more than 500 homeless veterans, and Malloy said in his State of the State address in February that the number is unacceptable.

Malloy’s proposed state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes $500,000 for a study of how state buildings can best be put to use for veterans. The Rocky Hill campus, with buildings that date back to the 1940s and older, is expected to be one focus of the study.


“Obviously, the governor feels we owe a tremendous amount of support to the people that opted to serve our country, and his effort on this front is geared toward how we can best serve them,” Doba said.

The administration also wants to “do a deeper dive” and identify barriers to homeless veterans who come to Rocky Hill in particular, Doba said.

Besides funding for a study, Malloy’s spending plan also earmarks $50,000 to cover security deposits for homeless vets, $600,000 to housing agencies to help veterans re-enter the workforce and nearly $290,000 for support services for veterans at the 74-unit Victory Gardens in Newington.

Malloy and the General Assembly are negotiating a final budget agreement.

The Rocky Hill campus has more than 40 buildings, some of which need substantial renovation. The main residential building, where air conditioning was only recently installed, has about 400 beds. Veterans who live in the modest, dormitory setting must follow certain rules. Drinking alcohol on the premises, for example, is prohibited. The residents receive meals, clothing and medical care. Vocational and educational services are also available.

The sprawling campus also has several stand-alone houses for homeless veterans with families and has housing for female veterans.

Although there is no waiting list at the main residence, state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Linda Schwartz says the setting is not appropriate for every veteran who needs a home.

“We cannot accept psychiatric patients. We have no psychiatric staff,” she said in a March email to U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Thus we have to evaluate each individual and can’t accept veterans that are suicidal, have not been clean and sober for at least 30 days or present as a danger to themselves or others.”

Schwartz said regulations also prevent the residence from accepting veterans who have committed a violent crime within 10 years of applying for admission.

In addition, she said, some parts of the complex are old and weren’t built to accommodate people with disabilities. Her agency recently closed a 1938 building that had 30 beds because it didn’t have an elevator or air conditioning. She said the heating system and water supply also were questionable.

“Needs have changed,” Schwartz said. “Support programs and care for our veterans require much more than was available at Rocky Hill in the past. Our challenge is to keep up with the emerging needs of veterans and now their families.”

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