By Barry Warner
Homes For Heroes is a private, not-for-profit 501C3, non-government, volunteer-managed corporation. It was created to provide supportive, permanent, affordable rental apartments in Tappan, NY for honorably discharged, disabled and displaced Veterans, as a living memorial to the historic military land on which the apartments stand. The land is known as Camp Shanks, ‘Last Stop USA’ for the 1.3 million GIs gathered from all over America from 1943-1944, for their preparation to sail to Europe to await the D-Day invasion on the beaches of France.
On Veterans Day 2013, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer D-NY and then Rockland County Legislative Member John Murphy R-Orangetown helped welcome visitors to the grand opening of the first phase of the eight Homes For Heroes’ apartments at the abandoned military base. Senator Schumer helped cut through federal red tape to make the Homes For Heroes Project possible to provide housing for Veterans who were facing homelessness.
Volunteer Carl Dornbush worked for the Rockland County Department of Health, served in the New York National Guard and is a Homes For Heroes Board Member. He oversees the property and landscaping for the Homes For Heroes Project on Western Highway in Tappan. He said, “The habilitation of the landscaping was due to the generosity of the Rockland County Landscaping Association, as contractors showed up and graded the property with heavy equipment. Eight rental garden apartments were built in the first phase on four and one half acres and the second phase calls for twenty handicapped-accessible apartments to be built on the site of the abandoned Army buildings. We hope that the Federal Government converts our lease to a deed for an additional fifteen acres, so we can move ahead. We are reaching out to our sponsors to raise money to demolish the old Army structures that contain asbestos and old paint. Because of the accumulation of water during storms, a drainage project has been approved by the Rockland County Department of Public Works. There is no shortage of homeless veterans we would like to reach out and help.”
John Murphy, Marine Corps Veteran, former Rockland County Legislator plus Founder and President of Homes For Heroes indicated that Carl Dornbush is a ‘Citizen Soldier’ in the most noble meaning of the words. He has led an adult life of service to others in both his civilian life and military life, distinguished by loyalty to principle, integrity and giving much, much more than receiving. No job is not too unimportant for him to do or help another do. No person is unimportant not to deserve respect. While steel strong in body, character, morality, he embraces the kind of male compassion, kindness and human understanding that men leaders should have. The world, our beloved nation need more of gentlemen ‘Citizen-Soldiers’ like Carl.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans website, approximately 39, 000 Veterans are homeless on any given night. The homeless Veterans have served in World War II, The Korean War, The Cold War, The Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, The Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of supportive networks and dismal conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing. A large number of displaced and at-risk Veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse. Also, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some Veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment.
To help Homes For Heroes reach the goal of building more affordable rental apartments for Veterans, check donations can be mailed to Homes for Heroes, Inc., One Blue Hill Plaza, P.O. Box 1648, Pearl River, N.Y. 10965 or call 845-735-0515.