HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. -- The Veterans' Resource Fair offered a collection of information and services on Thursday to veterans of rural eastern Rensselaer County and nearby Bennington, Vt.
Representatives from Legal Aid of Northeastern New York, human resources from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA Stratton Health Care Enrollment Team and more were available to extend services to veterans and their families.
The fair was put together at American Legion Post 40, 150 Main St., by legion member John Holmes, who said it's hard for some veterans to travel to Troy or Albany for services.
Holmes said that despite serving only about a dozen veterans throughout the day, those that came needed the assistance.
"I just started this initiative," Holmes said. "The Hoosick Falls, Bennington and the southern Washington County hill country is a very underserved area when it comes to services, so this is something we are going to try to do on a regular basis."
Holmes also works for a nonprofit outreach organization called Heroes from Home, which works to help prevent veteran suicides. The Rensselaer County organization, http://www.heroesathomerensco.com/, utilizes volunteer veterans who have had first-hand experience with crises for peer support, both to veterans and families.
"We just lost somebody at the bridge two weeks ago: A 36-year-old Marine," Holmes said. "We are trying to get to the guys before they get to that crisis We have to give them support to get through things."
Holmes holds support groups at Post 40 every Tuesday from 2 to 7:30 p.m., and on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The veterans fair will return at a date to be determined. For referral of any services, contact Holmes at (518) 545-6781.
Also available to veterans was former Marine Geoff Raiti, an outreach coordinator for Soldier On, to direct those at risk to homelessness to housing and counseling resources. "We try to get vets up off the street and into permanent housing. We work with veterans if they are facing a conviction process to try to keep them in their housing," said Raiti.
Soldier On was founded in 1994 by two veterans exiting detoxification at the VA campus in Leeds, Mass. to provide emergency and transitional housing for veterans. Veterans undergo an eligibility assessment with an intake coordinator, and may end up in transitional or permanent housing. Soldier On expanded its services in 2011 to eastern New York, to include Support Services for Veteran Families. The foundation now serves 36 counties in New York and four other states.
Soldier On director of communications Maggie Porter said the foundation is working on obtaining more permanent housing in addition to the Gordon Mansfield Veterans Community in Pittsfield, Mass.
"We see as many homeless veterans in rural areas as we do urban. They may have an even more difficult time getting to services," Porter said.
For more information, visit http://www.wesoldieron.org/.
Since transportation and availability of resources is a concern in the area surrounding Hoosick Falls, the director of the Rensselaer County Veteran Service Agency, Peter Goebel, attended the fair to help eliminate the concern.
Goebel said that despite being located at the county office building in Troy, he tries to make it out to events in the eastern part of the county. "We want to let veterans know exactly what we can provide, and can assist them in enrolling in their benefits."
Most significantly, the agency offers a van service to transport veterans to medical appointments. For access to the van transport, other services or to see the agency's monthly newsletter, visit http://www.rensco.com/departments_veterans.asp.
Contact Tom Momberg at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.