Backpack project helps homeless veterans

Local News

A backpack project in Cambria County helps homeless veterans get back on their feet.

Community Action Partnership of Cambria County (CAPCC) started the Veteran’s Backpack Project two-and-a-half years ago. They donate toiletries, food and blankets to veterans entering or leaving local homeless shelters.

CAPCC employees said it can be a challenge for veterans returning from war to find a stable job and housing.

“You’re coming home to no apartment, no car, no job. It’s hard to get re-established,” said Helen Robinson, the community services director for CAPCC.

Robinson served in the U.S. Navy for eight years. She said she understands what it’s like to return from deployment, not knowing where to turn for help.

“It’s easier than you think to be homeless,” Robinson said.

Each month, the backpack program provides about ten bags to homeless veterans. CAPCC relies on donations from businesses and veterans organizations.

“A lot of times they’d come into the shelter with nothing,” said Jeffery Vaughn, the executive director of  CAPCC.

Toiletries like razors, soap and shampoo are always needed. Workers are also looking for additional funding to expand the program.

“With some of the extra donation money, we’ll assist them in other ways if we can. We help them pay a utility bill, give them money for gas to get to a job interview,” Vaughn said.

CAPCC employees said state and federal grants are hard to get.

“A lot of times the government isn’t looking to hand out more funds, instead cutting the funds. So it’s a challenge, but we’ll continue to ask,” said Vaughn.

Robinson wants to expand the backpack project to fill in other gaps in services for veterans trying to get back on their feet.

“Everybody’s like one paycheck from being homeless sometimes. So it can happen to anybody and it can happen quickly,” Robinson said.

If you would like to donate to the Veteran’s Backpack Project you can contact Community Action Partnership of Cambria County on their website or by calling: (814) 361-6320

You can find a list of needed donation items here.

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