Saratoga organization changes veterans' lives

In life we search,and some of us find

Tom Dingman sang the words of an old George Jones song, "Walk through this world with me," at the dinner table for a small group of guests on Friday evening, March 27, while two of his housemates scraped dishes in the kitchen. Another two were on the front porch, enjoying an after-dinner cigarette.

All are veterans. All were previously homeless. Most are in recovery for drugs, alcohol or both. All agree the Saratoga County Rural Preservation Company, an organization that operates a transitional facility for homeless veterans, has changed their lives significantly.

"They get you back on your feet," said Brian Case, a 63-year-old Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War. Case, originally from Syracuse, said he was a "functioning alcoholic" when he left the military, and he was homeless by the time he was 40. Case, who said he doesn't blame his alcoholism on the military, finally found himself in a rehab in Amsterdam, where he was recommended to the RPC.

"The people here," he said of the staff and his fellow veterans, "they know the ropes. They can get you hooked up with programs at the VA hospital, work. It's a self-help program here, but they do what they can to help you out. I know they have changed my life."

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that 23 percent of all homeless Americans are veterans. It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 homeless veterans in New York state.

The RPC, a nonprofit organization established in 1983, also runs a 12-unit rental facility in Wilton that rents exclusively to veterans and a two-family home in Ballston Spa for disabled veterans.

Residents of the "vet house," as its residents and staff call it, each pay $250 per month in addition to contributing for food. During the day, the men either work at their respective jobs or are transported to the Albany Stratton VA Hospital for medical treatment or rehabilitation programs.

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