A shelter for homeless veterans is helping men find jobs, housing and get medical assistance.
Tomorrow’s Hope is a transitional housing center for veterans in Coalport Borough, Clearfield County. The shelter works with local Veterans Affairs organizations, the Department of Corrections and Veterans Leadership Program to assist homeless men all over Western Pennsylvania.
The shelter houses around 85 men, on average, at one time. They typically live at the shelter for up to six months. Since the shelter opened in 2007, around 600 homeless veterans have gone through its doors.
James Bryner is a U.S. Air Force veteran. Like other men staying at the shelter, Bryner has a troubled past: he served three years in jail for selling drugs.
“It’s taken it’s toll on me as far as my family. I lost the respect of my son and my daughter,” said Bryner.
Bryner is trying to get his life back on track. He’s enrolled in a food service work training program with help from Tomorrow’s Hope, the Altoona VA and Veterans Leadership Program.
“It’s our responsibility to connect the dots to make sure that they get their medical treatment, mental health treatment, any drug and alcohol needs,” said Mike Millward, the CEO of Tomorrow’s Hope.
Men staying at the shelter can also get assistance to find permanent housing and pay their rent.
However, finding housing is just the first step. Once the men leave Tomorrow’s Hope, that’s when the real work begins: holding down a job, learning how to budget, and getting transportation to medical appointments or work.
“The vast majority of the people in our are don’t have public transportation. So ,they may get a job, but getting to it on a day-to-day basis is much more of a problem,” said Marty Kuhar, the operations director for Veterans Leadership Program of Johnstown.
Gregory Crownover has struggled with unemployment since he was discharged in 2002. Now, he said he’s looking for work in the defense industry.
“I wanted to go back to a time when I was much younger in the Navy and pursue the profession that I love as a professional welder,” Crownover said.
While some veterans struggle with drug and alcohol addiction or PTSD, Crownover and Bryner said the hardest part for them has been learning to not beat themselves up for past mistakes and accept help.
“It’s been hard but I have to move on. Hopefully I’m working on that part now,” Bryner said. “People all here work with you If you’re willing to do it, they’re there behind you 100 percent.”