County, college in novel deal for veterans

By GERRY HARRINGTON, United Press International  |  Feb. 1, 2013 at 6:54 PM
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KINGSTON, N.Y., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A college in Ulster County, N.Y., is selling its president's residence to help the county create temporary housing for homeless veterans, officials said.

The transitional housing will be combined with individualized social, emotional and vocational support services to assist veterans in developing stability in their lives.

The pending sale of the 3,700-square-foot colonial-style president's residence, near the State University of New York at Ulster campus outside the Hudson Valley city of Kingston, will help finance renovations to a former group home across from a veterans monument in a Kingston city park, Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said in his State of the County address.

The president's official residence -- which is used for college gatherings and other ceremonial purposes, and not as the home of college President Donald Katt -- is on the market for $498,000 and has received an offer, college trustees board Chairman John Dwyer told United Press International Friday.

To create the transitional housing program, the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to deed the vacant 4,400-square-foot former group home to the county for $1. The century-old three-story building, initially a private residence, was used until 2010 by the local association for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Ulster County expects to receive the deed to the property overlooking the Hudson River in the next week or so, Deputy County Executive Ken Crannell told UPI.

The county plans to turn the stately building into "a place of respect and honor -- that's important to us," Crannell said, adding homeless veterans' needs "transcend a place to sleep" and include mental health assistance, job training, nutritional support and other services.

As many as 10 homeless veterans are expected to "live with their peers on a transitional basis and have direct access to support services," Crannell told UPI.

The county hopes to open the home in several months, after renovations are completed.

Hein said in his address Thursday night he had been dismayed to learn local combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were "sleeping in the streets."

"And what made this news even worse was when I was told that at the county level, it was virtually impossible to deliver real solutions," he said. "There was no money to fund an appropriate answer to this complicated problem."

After identifying the vacant group home near government services, amenities and public transportation, the county worked with city and state officials to create the novel way to "fund the necessary renovations, upkeep and service delivery," Hein said.

"By moving to sell what was the community college president's house, we now were able to fund this appropriate project for our veterans," he said.

"I am not afraid to say I was moved to tears when I was informed that a veteran was already mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes [of the future veterans home] before we even closed the deal," he said.

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